Interspecific breeding: making the impossible possible


Interview about interspecific breeding with Joost Kos, Head of R&D Flowers, published in the Dutch floricultural newspaper De Bloemenkrant.

Ask a consumer what he or she looks for when it comes to flowers and plants and there is a good chance that the answers are about being surprised and convenience. Well, that has become a lot easier thanks to interspecific breeding. For years, Syngenta Flowers worked hard  on this and is able to develop many innovative products. The company has a lot of experience in the possibilities of this smart breeding technique. Calliope® and Sunfinity® are two great examples that offer consumers a unique product experience.

Helping nature
Interspecific breeding means crossing species, allowing to combine the strengths of different plants. In order to do so, Syngenta Flowers uses advanced techniques to lend a hand to this natural process. Making the impossible possible. Compare it with the incubator, or other treatments that make it possible to have a baby. The same is possible with plants. It is a costly technique that requires a lot of investment in both laboratories and equipment as well as in knowledge, but the results are more than worth the effort.

"What we do in particular is to introduce new flower shapes, plant shapes and colours that amaze the consumer" - Joost Kos, R&D Director

Since Syngenta Flowers started interspecific breeding programs about twenty years ago, the variation has increased considerably. Head of R&D Flowers Joost Kos is very proud of what his team has already been able to improve. “What we do in particular is to introduce new flower shapes, plant shapes and colours that amaze the consumer. We make our variation wider and can therefore respond to trends faster. It is also nice that we can set trends. Take Calliope, a fantastic Pelargonium in various bright colours and sizes. Because we can cross types with each other, we have been able to develop flowers with a much more intense colours that don’t fade. Moreover, the plant is more vigorous and robust, making this genetics highly weather tolerant in the event of drought, rain or temperature differences. All in all, this makes Calliope an extremely easy product for the market with an excellent garden performance. ”

Calliope® Sunfinity®

Infinity of flowers on one plant. Sunfinity brings the sunflower 2.0.
He is also very proud of Sunfinity. Kos: “Sunfinity really is a unique plant. Thanks to an interspecific cross, this plant with several flower stems continues to give new flowers. What else do you want, new flowers over and over again, all summer long? It does well in a pot and in the soil it grows into a beautiful bush. In countries such as China and Japan, you see entire fields full of Sunfinity, where landscaping is the trend. Imagine such a bright yellow corner in your garden?”

Success guaranteed: this splendour of color pops out of the shelf
Geranium grower Peter van Os from Naaldwijk (NL) can confirm. In his 4.5 hectare greenhouse he stands between the compact Moxie Geraniums in a 10.5 cm pot and points at them. “Look at those colours! This is real consumer value. A new generation of Geraniums with a complete range of bright colours and plants that produce non fading flowers throughout the summer and well into the fall. The plant does not care much about rain or heat, it can resist a lot and gives an incredible amount of flowers. I dare to say that he gives twice as many flowers as an average Geranium, they are very generative. ”

In the next greenhouse, van Os proudly looks at Kariboe, another interspecific cross. “Kariboe is a Campanula that makes a different type of flower, blooms even longer and can withstand temperature differences. Very handy in our capricious climate and with that beautiful, purple colour. I am very enthusiastic and expect a lot from it", says Peter.