It’s always an exciting time when the first flowers appear in the new crop. We proudly put them in a vase at home so that we can continue to enjoy them after work. But after three years, you can’t drum up the same amount of enthusiasm for every variety. Sometimes I look forward to the next change of crop and sometimes I’m even quite pleased if a variety goes out the door never to return.

That came to mind last week as I was doing the rounds of the Dutch plant breeders. Lots of new species are introduced every year but only a few ever turn out to be real winners. It does seem as if breeders keep on producing more and more of the same thing, and the new ones often don’t even seem to be much of an improvement on the previous versions. Later on you discover that the flowers are very prone to mildew, they aren’t particularly productive, or they are too susceptible to pests and diseases, causing high losses. Every species has a nice little sign describing their performance but they say nothing about how sensitive the plants are. Surely there’s a better way?

If breeders could provide a little more information up front, it would make it much easier to choose the right plants. I also think that highlighting this information would shift the focus more towards breeding resistant crops, which is something that’s urgently needed. If it’s possible to produce a burger from a 3D printer, surely it’s possible to produce a young plant that’s resistant to pests and diseases?

This has particular potential in the current market, in which there is a lot of demand for clean, sustainably produced products. Some vegetable crops already come with information about how sensitive the variety is to diseases like mildew, for example. So the first step has already been taken, and it would be a nice challenge for gerbera breeders to follow this example. Who will be the first? I’m looking forward to visiting the show greenhouses of breeders like Dümmen Orange, Florist and Schreurs this year and seeing neat little signs stating what form of resistance all these wonderful blooming gerberas have.

Marius Mans
Gerbera grower in the Netherlands