Johnny’s connects with a phytopathologist, a basil grower and a breeder

Johnny’s connects with a phytopathologist,
a basil grower and a breeder

Vegetable Growers News / March 2022

March 3, 2022

Basil is a high-demand, high-value crop that consumers expect to be flawless on presentation. Growers need access to the best-performing, most disease-resistant basil varieties available, and as a committed partner in the success of our customers, Johnny’s Selected Seeds strives to supply this need.


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From Israel’s Negev to the Rest of the World – High Quality is the key to Success

From Israel’s Negev to the Rest of the World
High Quality is the key to Success

Genesis Seeds penetrates the American and European markets

Interview with Dr. Isaac Nir, Founder and Owner

November 3, 2021

We often recognize a leading brand name, but usually lack information about the company it represents. In our previous article we heard from Dr. Isaac Nir, founder of Genesis Seeds and inventor of the well-known brand name, “Basil Prospera®,” about the company’s formation and their decision to go Organic back then, sometime in the 90s.

Another decision made early on by Nir and his partners, was to focus on export rather than the local market. We met with Nir to hear about the factors that led him to these decisions, which continue to shape the company’s current activity.

Nir tells us that during the course of his professional marketing work in the U.S. on the subject of plant propagation and horticulture, he made contacts with growers, distributors and marketers across the continent. He was encouraged by two colleagues: the first was Carl Pearlstein, who owned the West Coast “Nurserymen’s Exchange”, where Nir had interned for a year in decorative plants and pot horticulture; the second was Mr. Emanuel Shemin from Connecticut, who owned the Shemin Nurseries Distributors that supplied everything needed in the decorative plants sector at their “One Stop Operation” Center.

Nir’s second active market was in Holland, where he made contacts with growers who supplied the Dutch Auction’s Exchanges, and through them he got to know the European and American marketing systems. 

In Israel at the time, the market for open-pollinated (OP) flower, herb and vegetable varieties was very limited, as it was primarily a professional hybrid seeds market. On the local scene, highly developed companies were already competing, so the marketing niche for Genesis Seeds — as a new company — was quite narrow. 

As a new company that opted to become an organic seeds producer, says Nir, Genesis Seeds didn’t get support from Israel’s agricultural establishment: the Volcani Institute, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Faculty of Agriculture at Rehovot. On the other hand, in the U.S. Genesis Seeds found a broad market, seeking quality producers with a large assortment of gardening OP seeds. Since the company was fortunate to have relatively good crop yields, its organic seed prices competed successfully with conventional seeds, thus enabling another market alternative.

For these reasons, Genesis Seeds’ initial markets were in the U.S., Western Europe (90%) and Israel.

The first three business contacts were created thanks to three main factors:

Familiarity with the seeds market and the main distributors of gardening seeds. At that point all Genesis Seeds had to offer was the potential for producing their seeds in Israel.

Quality: The conclusion was that Genesis Seeds, as a bigger or smaller seed producer, is committed to meet all seed production challenges. With that in mind, Shai (Nir’s son) was sent to Holland and Germany to specialize in seed cleaning and quality control. When he returned to Israel, the machinery for extraction and cleaning seeds arrived from Holland together with a trainer, who didn’t let up until he was certain that Shai was expert at operating the seed machine.

Meetings: Attending all annual meetings of flower, vegetable and herb seed companies like: ASTA, AAS, NGB,  in the U.S., ESA and FLORASELECT in Europe and ISF worldwide, which enabled the Genesis staff to gradually become acquainted with the seed business.  

Initially, they became acquainted with about 10 companies that were prepared to send Genesis Seeds their stock seeds for production in Israel. Prices were very low, but at this early stage it was important for Genesis Seeds to learn how to create quality seeds, and to gradually gain the clients’ confidence. It was obvious that without quality seeds, the company didn’t stand a chance to survive in this sector.

Once the production process had moved over completely to Ashalim (the current plant location in Israel’s Negev) in August 1996, the company had already met the customers’ requirements. From the very beginning, Genesis Seeds enjoyed the complete trust of Mike Fina from Gloeckner Company (a major U.S. distributor of ornamental seeds) who encouraged us to produce a large assortment of his OP seeds. The company’s staff learned to respond quickly to each request. That’s how Genesis Seeds established its reputation as a legitimate professional member of the international seed business.

Genesis Seeds’ main sales areas are the U.S., Western Europe and Israel, but over the years, customers have also been added from the Middle East, Australia, South Africa and western Africa. The sales area and customer composition was determined by our varieties.

Basil and other herbs have turned Genesis into the sole supplier in this area, and in parallel the increased consumption of hybrid organic varieties of sunflowers, artichokes, squash, melons, peppers, tomatoes, eggplants has created a new supply for professional organic and conventional growers.

Genesis is proud that in addition to its veteran customers, every year new customers join.

At first, Nir notes, most communication with the company’s customers was based on telephone calls and exchange of documents via fax, visits with customers or socializing at growers’ meetings. Over the years, much friendship has been created with distributors and seed companies.

The seed market, at the top of the agricultural pyramid, is first and foremost based on product quality and its outcomes, and then on production capacity and a fair price. If the supply chain is preserved, the tie between producer and distributor becomes almost like family. In any event, Genesis Seeds staff always aspire to reach 100% satisfaction.

What about the future? We can assume that the largest producers will erect various technical roadblocks to prevent competition by smaller companies, but Genesis Seeds is determined and believes in its “three central aspects” approach:

Organic Seeds: Genesis Seeds is a company focused on development of unique Organic varieties, highly reputed in the seeds market;

Research capability: The Company focuses on development of unique varieties backed by research, such as Basil, Cucumbers and others that will comprise its economic basis.

Flexibility: The Company’s size enables a speedy decision process and ability to respond, relative to possible changes in demand and seed market structure.

All of these, Nir emphasizes, helped and will continue to help in the future to develop the Company and establish its success as a leader in the seed production area, in Israel and abroad. 

We often recognize a leading brand name, but usually lack information about the company it represents. In our previous article we heard from Dr. Nir Nir, founder of Genesis Seeds and inventor of the well-known brand name, “Basil Prospera®,” about the company’s formation and their decision to go Organic back then, sometime in the 90s.

Another decision made early on by Nir and his partners, was to focus on export rather than the local market. We met with Nir to hear about the factors that led him to these decisions, which continue to shape the company’s current activity.

Nir tells us that during the course of his professional marketing work in the U.S. on the subject of plant propagation and horticulture, he made contacts with growers, distributors and marketers across the continent. He was encouraged by two colleagues: the first was Carl Pearlstein, who owned the West Coast “Nurserymen’s Exchange”, where Nir had 

interned for a year in decorative plants and pot horticulture; the second was Mr. Emanuel Shemin from Connecticut, who owned the Shemin Nurseries Distributors that supplied everything needed in the decorative plants sector at their “One Stop Operation” Center.

Nir’s second active market was in Holland, where he made contacts with growers who supplied the Dutch Auction’s Exchanges, and through them he got to know the European and American marketing systems. 

In Israel at the time, the market for open-pollinated (OP) flower, herb and vegetable varieties was very limited, as it was primarily a professional hybrid seeds market. On the local scene, highly developed companies were already competing, so the marketing niche for Genesis Seeds — as a new company — was quite narrow. 

As a new company that opted to become an organic seeds producer, says Nir, Genesis Seeds didn’t get support from Israel’s agricultural establishment: the Volcani Institute, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Faculty of Agriculture at Rehovot. On the other hand, in the U.S. Genesis Seeds found a broad market, seeking quality producers with a large assortment of gardening OP seeds. Since the company was fortunate to have relatively good crop yields, its organic seed prices competed successfully with conventional seeds, thus enabling another market alternative.

For these reasons, Genesis Seeds’ initial markets were in the U.S., Western Europe (90%) and Israel.

The first three business contacts were created thanks to three main factors:

Familiarity with the seeds market and the main distributors of gardening seeds. At that point all Genesis Seeds had to offer was the potential for producing their seeds in Israel.

Quality: The conclusion was that Genesis Seeds, as a bigger or smaller seed producer, is committed to meet all seed production challenges. With that in mind, Shai (Nir’s son) was sent to Holland and Germany to specialize in seed cleaning and quality control. When he returned to Israel, the machinery for extraction and cleaning seeds arrived from Holland together with a trainer, who didn’t let up until he was certain that Shai was expert at operating the seed machine.

Meetings: Attending all annual meetings of flower, vegetable and herb seed companies like: ASTA, AAS, NGB,  in the U.S., ESA and FLORASELECT in Europe and ISF worldwide, which enabled the Genesis staff to gradually become acquainted with the seed business.  

 

Initially, they became acquainted with about 10 companies that were prepared to send Genesis Seeds their stock seeds for production in Israel. Prices were very low, but at this early stage it was important for Genesis Seeds to learn how to create quality seeds, and to gradually gain the clients’ confidence. It was obvious that without quality seeds, the company didn’t stand a chance to survive in this sector.

Once the production process had moved over completely to Ashalim (the current plant location in Israel’s Negev) in August 1996, the company had already met the customers’ requirements. From the very beginning, Genesis Seeds enjoyed the complete trust of Mike Fina from Gloeckner Company (a major U.S. distributor of ornamental seeds) who encouraged us to produce a large assortment of his OP seeds. The company’s staff learned to respond quickly to each request. That’s how Genesis Seeds established its reputation as a legitimate professional member of the international seed business.

Genesis Seeds’ main sales areas are the U.S., Western Europe and Israel, but over the years, customers have also been added from the Middle East, Australia, South Africa and western Africa. The sales area and customer composition was determined by our varieties.

Basil and other herbs have turned Genesis into the sole supplier in this area, and in parallel the increased consumption of hybrid organic varieties of sunflowers, artichokes, squash, melons, peppers, tomatoes, eggplants has created a new supply for professional organic and conventional growers.

Genesis is proud that in addition to its veteran customers, every year new customers join.

At first, Nir notes, most communication with the company’s customers was based on telephone calls and exchange of documents via fax, visits with customers or socializing at growers’ meetings. Over the years, much friendship has been created with distributors and seed companies.

The seed market, at the top of the agricultural pyramid, is first and foremost based on product quality and its outcomes, and then on production capacity and a fair price. If the supply chain is preserved, the tie between producer and distributor becomes almost like family. In any event, Genesis Seeds staff always aspire to reach 100% satisfaction.

What about the future? We can assume that the largest producers will erect various technical roadblocks to prevent competition by smaller companies, but Genesis Seeds is determined and believes in its “three central aspects” approach:

Organic Seeds: Genesis Seeds is a company focused on development of unique Organic varieties, highly reputed in the seeds market;

Research capability: The Company focuses on development of unique varieties backed by research, such as Basil, Cucumbers and others that will comprise its economic basis.

Flexibility: The Company’s size enables a speedy decision process and ability to respond, relative to possible changes in demand and seed market structure.

All of these, Nir emphasizes, helped and will continue to help in the future to develop the Company and establish its success as a leader in the seed production area, in Israel and abroad. 

We often recognize a leading brand name, but usually lack information about the company it represents. In our previous article we heard from Dr. Nir Nir, founder of Genesis Seeds and inventor of the well-known brand name, “Basil Prospera®,” about the company’s formation and their decision to go Organic back then, sometime in the 90s.

Another decision made early on by Nir and his partners, was to focus on export rather than the local market. We met with Nir to hear about the factors that led him to these decisions, which continue to shape the company’s current activity.

Nir tells us that during the course of his professional marketing work in the U.S. on the subject of plant propagation and horticulture, he made contacts with growers, distributors and marketers across the continent. He was encouraged by two colleagues: the first was Carl Pearlstein, who owned the West Coast “Nurserymen’s Exchange”, where Nir had interned for a year in decorative plants and pot horticulture; the second was Mr. Emanuel Shemin from Connecticut, who owned the Shemin Nurseries Distributors that supplied everything needed in the decorative plants sector at their “One Stop Operation” Center.

Nir’s second active market was in Holland, where he made contacts with growers who supplied the Dutch Auction’s Exchanges, and through them he got to know the European and American marketing systems. 

In Israel at the time, the market for open-pollinated (OP) flower, herb and vegetable varieties was very limited, as it was primarily a professional hybrid seeds market. On the local scene, highly developed companies were already competing, so the marketing niche for Genesis Seeds — as a new company — was quite narrow. 

As a new company that opted to become an organic seeds producer, says Nir, Genesis Seeds didn’t get support from Israel’s agricultural establishment: the Volcani Institute, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Faculty of Agriculture at Rehovot. On the other hand, in the U.S. Genesis Seeds found a broad market, seeking quality producers with a large assortment of gardening OP seeds. Since the company was fortunate to have relatively good crop yields, its organic seed prices competed successfully with conventional seeds, thus enabling another market alternative.

For these reasons, Genesis Seeds’ initial markets were in the U.S., Western Europe (90%) and Israel.

The first three business contacts were created thanks to three main factors:

Familiarity with the seeds market and the main distributors of gardening seeds. At that point all Genesis Seeds had to offer was the potential for producing their seeds in Israel.

Quality: The conclusion was that Genesis Seeds, as a bigger or smaller seed producer, is committed to meet all seed production challenges. With that in mind, Shai (Nir’s son) was sent to Holland and Germany to specialize in seed cleaning and quality control. When he returned to Israel, the machinery for extraction and cleaning seeds arrived from Holland together with a trainer, who didn’t let up until he was certain that Shai was expert at operating the seed machine.

Meetings: Attending all annual meetings of flower, vegetable and herb seed companies like: ASTA, AAS, NGB,  in the U.S., ESA and FLORASELECT in Europe and ISF worldwide, which enabled the Genesis staff to gradually become acquainted with the seed business.  

Initially, they became acquainted with about 10 companies that were prepared to send Genesis Seeds their stock seeds for production in Israel. Prices were very low, but at this early stage it was important for Genesis Seeds to learn how to create quality seeds, and to gradually gain the clients’ confidence. It was obvious that without quality seeds, the company didn’t stand a chance to survive in this sector.

Once the production process had moved over completely to Ashalim (the current plant location in Israel’s Negev) in August 1996, the company had already met the customers’ requirements. From the very beginning, Genesis Seeds enjoyed the complete trust of Mike Fina from Gloeckner Company (a major U.S. distributor of ornamental seeds) who encouraged us to produce a large assortment of his OP seeds. The company’s staff learned to respond quickly to each request. That’s how Genesis Seeds established its reputation as a legitimate professional member of the international seed business.

Genesis Seeds’ main sales areas are the U.S., Western Europe and Israel, but over the years, customers have also been added from the Middle East, Australia, South Africa and western Africa. The sales area and customer composition was determined by our varieties.

Basil and other herbs have turned Genesis into the sole supplier in this area, and in parallel the increased consumption of hybrid organic varieties of sunflowers, artichokes, squash, melons, peppers, tomatoes, eggplants has created a new supply for professional organic and conventional growers.

Genesis is proud that in addition to its veteran customers, every year new customers join.

At first, Nir notes, most communication with the company’s customers was based on telephone calls and exchange of documents via fax, visits with customers or socializing at growers’ meetings. Over the years, much friendship has been created with distributors and seed companies.

The seed market, at the top of the agricultural pyramid, is first and foremost based on product quality and its outcomes, and then on production capacity and a fair price. If the supply chain is preserved, the tie between producer and distributor becomes almost like family. In any event, Genesis Seeds staff always aspire to reach 100% satisfaction.

What about the future? We can assume that the largest producers will erect various technical roadblocks to prevent competition by smaller companies, but Genesis Seeds is determined and believes in its “three central aspects” approach:

Organic Seeds: Genesis Seeds is a company focused on development of unique Organic varieties, highly reputed in the seeds market;

Research capability: The Company focuses on development of unique varieties backed by research, such as Basil, Cucumbers and others that will comprise its economic basis.

Flexibility: The Company’s size enables a speedy decision process and ability to respond, relative to possible changes in demand and seed market structure.

All of these, Nir emphasizes, helped and will continue to help in the future to develop the Company and establish its success as a leader in the seed production area, in Israel and abroad. 

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All the way to Prospera ®

All the way to Prospera®​

The brand of downy mildew resistant basils​

Interview with Dr. Yariv Ben-Naim

April 20, 2021

Sweet basil is one of the most widely used herbs in the kitchens world-wide. Israel, as a major exporter of herbs to Europe, is a large grower of Basil. In 2012 Israel’s basil sector was hit, for the first time, with a new leaf fungus called Downy-Mildew (Peronospora). The damage was so heavy that it was defined as an epidemic. This disease had spread through Europe and the U.S. several years earlier, and was found on basil plants in Israeli greenhouses. The disease symptoms are expressed as deformation and yellowing of leaves, and appearance of dark spores on the lower side of the leaves. When symptoms advance, the leaves turn brown and fall off. This disease is spread quickly via airborne spores, which in turn might cause a total collapse of the entire plot, and even spread onto adjacent basil fields.

Downy-mildew is causing extensive damages to the herbs export industry, and farmers find it difficult to manage the crop by pesticides use, while meeting the stringent export pesticide standards. Those challenges raised the urgent need to find a rapid, chemical-free solution for the problem.

Genesis-Seeds is an Israeli Company, specialized in producing basil seeds on a global scale, has taken on the challenge and invested in a research to find a solution to Downy-mildew. The research began in 2015 and was conducted by a team of phytopathology experts directed by Prof. Yigal Cohen and Dr. Yariv Ben-Naim from Bar-Ilan University in Israel. As Dr. Ben-Naim says: “we entered into a long and complicated process which began with an attempt to locate genetic sources of resistance. To that end, we screened hundreds of wild species from seed banks around the world. At the end of that year, we had a source of resistance from Africa, which we decided to hybridize with a sweet Italian cultivar in order to attain a commercial product.”

Despite the difficulties the research team had encountered, eventually a few hybrid plants that contained the gene responsible for resistance were discovered. Those few plants initiated an intensive breeding project that led, for the first time, to a sweet basil cultivar that possesses a resistance gene for Downy-mildew. Dr. Ben-Naim continues: “Two years later, together with Genesis-Seeds, we developed a product which was named Prospera®. This variety met all the strict market requirements, with excellent flavor and aroma and overall appearance. Since 2019 Genesis-Seeds has sold the Prospera® variety in Israel and abroad. This year, additional varieties have joined the Prospera® product series, 2 varieties for the pot market (one with large leaves and one with a smaller leaf), and an additional ‘Italian large-leaf’ type which is much preferred in the American market.

The company currently markets these four products under the Prospera® brand name. However, the development team isn’t resting on its laurels, and is engaged in expanding the Prospera collection with additional varieties such as Red Basil, Thai, as well as a combination of new sources of resistance to downy-mildew. These products will enable a foothold in new global markets, with broader resistance coverage for various potential strains of downy-mildew worldwide.

Another characteristic familiar to growers is basil’s sensitivity to cold, both in the field as well as while refrigerated post-harvest. Based on the successful cooperation between Genesis-Seeds and the researchers, the team is currently breeding varieties with higher cold tolerance. In this framework they are beginning to combine genes of cold tolerant wild basil species (e.g., a plant collected from the high grounds of Mount Kilimanjaro). According to Dr. Ben-Naim, “Basil comes from Africa and likes heat. The winter season is a growing obstacle worldwide for growers who don’t use heated facilities. We try to implement genes from wild species to provide broader tolerance to Sweet Basil, so that farmers will be able to extend their growing season into the winter, and to export during the period when basil prices are high in most markets.” In another project, the team is trying to create a cultivar with resistance to aphids, thereby contributing to both consumers’ and the environment health with limited pesticide spraying of crops. However, it’s important to understand that the development process takes years and never really ends, since new varieties have to be adapted to different growing zones, to new epidemics and sometimes to new market trends that change from time to time.

Dr. Ben-Naim concludes: “Together with the breeding team of Genesis Seeds, today we are proud parents of highly innovative basil products. We’ve learned how to take a product with a long heritage such as the Basil, and to conduct a non GMO process in order to adapt it to changing market demands, whatever they may be.” 

Sweet basil is one of the most widely used herbs in the kitchens world-wide. Israel, as a major exporter of herbs to Europe, is a large grower of Basil. In 2012 Israel’s basil sector was hit, for the first time, with a new leaf fungus called Downy-Mildew (Peronospora). 

All The Way To Prospera

The damage was so heavy that it was defined as an epidemic. This disease had spread through Europe and the U.S. several years earlier, and was found on basil plants in Israeli greenhouses. The disease symptoms are expressed as deformation and yellowing of leaves, and appearance of dark spores on the lower side of the leaves. When symptoms advance, the leaves turn brown and fall off. This disease is spread quickly via airborne spores, which in turn might cause a total collapse of the entire plot, and even spread onto adjacent basil fields.

Downy-mildew is causing extensive damages to the herbs export industry, and farmers find it difficult to manage the crop by pesticides use, while meeting the stringent export pesticide standards. Those challenges raised the urgent need to find a rapid, chemical-free solution for the problem.

All The Way To Prospera

Genesis-Seeds is an Israeli Company, specialized in producing basil seeds on a global scale, has taken on the challenge and invested in a research to find a solution to Downy-mildew. The research began in 2015 and was conducted by a team of phytopathology experts directed by Prof. Yigal Cohen and Dr. Yariv Ben-Naim from Bar-Ilan University in Israel. As Dr. Ben-Naim says: “we entered into a long and complicated process which began with an attempt to locate genetic sources of resistance. To that end, we screened hundreds of wild species from seed banks around the world. At the end of that year, we had a source of resistance from Africa, which we decided to hybridize with a sweet Italian cultivar in order to attain a commercial product.”

Despite the difficulties the research team had encountered, eventually a few hybrid plants that contained the gene responsible for resistance were discovered. Those few plants initiated an intensive breeding project that led, for the first time, to a sweet basil cultivar that possesses a resistance gene for Downy-mildew. Dr. Ben-Naim continues: “Two years later, together with Genesis-Seeds, we developed a product which was named Prospera®. This variety met all the strict market requirements, with excellent flavor and aroma and overall appearance. Since 2019 Genesis-Seeds has sold the Prospera® variety in Israel and abroad. This year, additional varieties have joined the Prospera® product series, 2 varieties for the pot market (one with large leaves and one with a smaller leaf), and an additional ‘Italian large-leaf’ type which is much preferred in the American market.

The company currently markets these four products under the Prospera® brand name. However, the development team isn’t resting on its laurels, and is engaged in expanding the Prospera collection with additional varieties such as Red Basil, Thai, as well as a combination of new sources of resistance to downy-mildew. These products will enable a foothold in new global markets, with broader resistance coverage for various potential strains of downy-mildew worldwide.

Another characteristic familiar to growers is basil’s sensitivity to cold, both in the field as well as while refrigerated post-harvest. Based on the successful cooperation between Genesis-Seeds and the researchers, the team is currently breeding varieties with higher cold tolerance. In this framework they are beginning to combine genes of cold tolerant wild basil species (e.g., a plant collected from the high grounds of Mount Kilimanjaro). According to Dr. Ben-Naim, “Basil comes from Africa and likes heat. The winter season is a growing obstacle worldwide for growers who don’t use heated facilities. We try to implement genes from wild species to provide broader tolerance to Sweet Basil, so that farmers will be able to extend their growing season into the winter, and to export during the period when basil prices are high in most markets.” In another project, the team is trying to create a cultivar with resistance to aphids, thereby contributing to both consumers’ and the environment health with limited pesticide spraying of crops. However, it’s important to understand that the development process takes years and never really ends, since new varieties have to be adapted to different growing zones, to new epidemics and sometimes to new market trends that change from time to time.

Dr. Ben-Naim concludes: “Together with the breeding team of Genesis Seeds, today we are proud parents of highly innovative basil products. We’ve learned how to take a product with a long heritage such as the Basil, and to conduct a non GMO process in order to adapt it to changing market demands, whatever they may be.” 

All The Way To Prospera

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