Harris Moran Seed Co. says it has entered into an agreement with Senesco Technologies, Inc., to develop lettuce and melon varieties with Senesco's exclusive anti-aging, senescence control technology. This agreement provides Harris Moran worldwide exclusivity in these crops.

Senesco technology controls and limits the senescence or aging process by modulating the signals that trigger plant deterioration. This can insure better product quality by reducing the damage caused by environmental stress, harvest and handling.

“Not only does Senesco technology represent a cutting-edge advance in the understanding of the whole plant system, it applies this insight with the well established tools of plant breeding using native lettuce and melon genes. Nothing else is added. We believe all our customers, from the grower to the ultimate boss — the produce eating public — will readily accept seed varieties bred with these traits.

“Because Senesco technology does not rely on transgenic or GMO techniques, there are none of the concerns some associate with these procedures. With Senesco's technology, we step beyond that debate,” said Jeff McElroy, vice president of research at Harris Moran.

Lettuce first

Harris Moran's first application of the technology will be in lettuce. “Harris Moran has always had a strong image in the Western lettuce business and we see this partnership as a way to bring the future in lettuce breeding to all users and consumers of our lettuce varieties. Our progress in breeding lettuce with multiple disease resistance will soon be complimented by traits that the public will appreciate such as better texture and a fresher product. Success will set a new standard for the industry,” added Matthew Johnston, vice president of sales and marketing at Harris Moran.

Working in conjunction with Senesco, Harris Moran anticipates field tests of the new products as early as 2003.

Jeff McElroy points out, “This is a fast track program for the partners. We know that 2003 is an aggressive schedule, but the unique features of Senesco's technology make this target very achievable.

“For the last 20 years, most of the success stories in lettuce breeding has revolved round increasing yield and field performance for a given type of market. While we expect these criteria to remain an absolute must, we see downstream quality benefits such as nutritional value, flavor and ease of use as being the real challenge for the very sophisticated fresh-cut industry. We are committed to meeting this challenge with the best tools available.

“Our partnership with Senesco is an excellent example of melding traditional breeding with a technological breakthrough to meet the increasing demand for consumer quality.”