Planthaven International president calls for commercially viable plant varieties

The industry needs to ensure that the new plant varieties being bred for 2020 and beyond are commercially viable, a plant breeder agent has said.

Speaking at the HTA Bedding Focus conference last week, Geoff Needham, president of North American agent Planthaven International, said new plants must be desirable, technologically possible and viable in the marketplace.

"They must have all three qualities, which is a very tall order," he said. "It's no use having a plant desirable to consumers but which is not possible to produce, or which would be so expensive no one would buy it."

He said new varieties were valuable, giving the example of US breeder Terra Nova's coloured Heucheras, which have a retail value of $70m. "Game-changing plant breeding will always underpin our industry's growth and success," he said. "It's too important to be left to breeders and we all need to get involved."

He added: "What do you want in a new plant? The consumer will answer that question in terms of emotion. That has to be part of the process when we are innovating. The industry will answer in terms of specification. For example, asking for more compact plants so more can fit on a trolley."

Breeders need to consider what is genetically possible, and create plants that have a low production cost in relation to their perceived value, he said.

KeyStat - The retail value of the coloured Heucheras produced by US plant breeder Terra Nova Nurseries - $70m.

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