Paco González is standing in the bright Spanish sun, enjoying the taste of a ripe honey melon. The soft flesh is sweet and aromatic. From looking at the mesh-like yellow skin, the Bayer expert knows that the melon has reached its ideal state of ripeness. As long as the fruit isn’t ready, its skin remains green. “When its full ripeness is reached, the skin turns into a bright yellow within one or two days,” explains González, Global Head of Marketing & Sales for Vegetable Seeds at Bayer.
The “wonder melon” is called “Kirene” and it’s a special breed of galia melon – a round, tasty honey melon roughly the size of a handball. And simply by changing its color, Kirene tells the consumer whether he is holding a ripe fruit in his hand or not. “It keeps fresh longer than other galia melons,” explains González. But Kirene is not the only success among the melon varieties developed by Bayer. The vegetable seeds specialists also have leading seedless watermelon varieties in their portfolio, because these too, are in demand all over the world: “In Spain, Korea, and Turkey for instance, we were able to introduce the first seedless watermelons” says González. Consumers also appreciate the new varieties in medium and small sizes. Bayer’s smallest watermelon is only the size of a big apple – and thus fits into any pocket. “The market is very dynamic and requires us to constantly develop new melon varieties,” continues González. His colleagues are working on better protecting the fruits against plant diseases. In addition, the researchers also want to extend the shelf life of the fruit. Another challenge lies in the fact that the melons always have to look good, have a good flavor and sweet taste, and satisfy the consumers.
The market is very dynamic and requires us to constantly develop new melon varieties.
Meeting Requirements of the Value Chain
The successful introduction of new varieties requires novel ideas, but also accurate knowledge of the requirements and needs of all market participants. Bayer’s experts therefore try to establish close links with, and between, growers, consultants, processors, food wholesalers, importers, exporters and retailers, in order to achieve a better understanding of the demands of consumers and the industry. “Consumers around the world have become more demanding in terms of the quality of fruits and vegetables. They want to know where, and how, their food was grown,” explains Gonzáles. This was the basic idea for a program that benefits consumers as much as it does transporters, distributors, food distributors and farmers around the world: “We launched the Food Chain Partnership in order to provide benefits for each link in the food chain,” says Gonzáles. In addition, Bayer also supports fruit and vegetable growers to market their products at the international level. And this lets the whole value chain move together.
Through the consistently high quality of our melons we improved our reputation as a global top melon producer.
Successful Food Chain Partnerships, like the melon project with Agricola Famosa, the largest producer of melons and watermelons in Brazil, are the result. On roughly 6,000 hectares, the company grows the sweet thirst quenchers in the hot Northeast of the country, Brazil’s major cultivation area for melons. The sun-ripened fruits are particularly popular in Europe, a region with high quality and safety requirements. The maximum residue levels for crop protection products, for instance, must be met rigorously. “In order to meet the high demands of the European market, we have turned to the Bayer Melon Crop Team,” says Luiz Barcelos, Chief Executive Officer at Agricola Famosa.
The Consumers’ Benefits
The Bayer experts came by immediately and supported the Brazilian agricultural company in improving the crop protection on its fields. “The first thing we did was take samples on the fields in order to analyze the current residue levels on the melon plants,” explains vegetable expert Kligio Solon who works for Bayer in Brazil. The samples were then examined by an external laboratory and the residue levels could be reduced step-by-step through efficient solutions.
“The problem is that the melon yield would be under threat without effective crop protection. Pests such as leaf miners und whitefly can cause significant losses,” explains Solon. Several Bayer products can keep the pests under control. “And we train the field workers in applying the products correctly and safely,” says Solon. For example, the products must be rotated in order to avoid resistances. And the right cultivation practices are also decisive for a successful harvest. “Since the beginning of our partnership with Bayer CropScience in 2008, the melons were able to meet the expectations of European consumers,” says Barcelos. The melons harvested now show more uniform shapes and sizes, fulfill the strict EU directives and also satisfy consumers with their taste. “Through the consistently high quality of our melons we not only improved our own reputation as a global top melon producer, but also that of the entire country,” says Barcelos. The consumers also benefit from the close cooperation along the entire value chain: The fruits are full of vitamins and minerals, safe to eat and extremely tasty. Ultimately, a healthy nutrition including delicious fruits increases the quality of life.
We train the field workers in applying the products correctly and safely.