Protect Watermelon Quality with Authentic Seed

Expert Insights
Syngenta manchester watermelon

Growers, retailers, and consumers love Manchester watermelon. Discover what Syngenta is doing to protect this blockbuster variety.

Lost and looking for direction, Alecio Schiavon was at a pivotal point in his life" he was trying to decide what profession to pursue. Suddenly, it hit him.  

“It was like God put his hand on my head and said you will be an agronomist,” he said. “I was looking out at my family’s farm and just loved that feeling of being in nature. In that moment, I knew it’s what I was supposed to do.” 

Though his family grew soybeans, Schiavon found his way into the vegetable seeds business and joined Syngenta in 1999. For the past 23 years he’s partnered with Brazilian farmers, today serving as the Senior Product Development Specialist for Cucurbit and Brassica crops in Brazil and Paraguay. 

Since joining Syngenta, he has been on the lookout for new opportunities for the Brazilian market and continues to search for the next game-changing genetics for growers, while continuing to support one of the most popular seeded watermelon varieties in the country. And it all started at his parents’ small family farm. 

When Schiavon started his career with Syngenta, Brazilian growers were seeking a seeded watermelon that withstood many regional production challenges, including access to inputs and technology, transportability, and disease pressure. In 2007, he first saw variety 2319 while visiting watermelon breeding trials at the Syngenta research station in Woodland, Calif.

Alecio Schiavon with Syngenta Manchester Watermelon

“I remember the first year I saw it: I told the breeders ‘I want that,’” he recalled. “The funny thing is, the next year I selected a variety by a different name that was also very good but still asked the breeders where is 2319? The breeder had changed the variety code name and I still selected it again in a blind evaluation during the second year. Then I knew we were really looking at something special – something our farmers truly needed. Then, in 2011, we finally introduced it.” 

“But we couldn’t use the 2319 name, because it was just a little boring, so I found something we all loved: soccer!” Schiavon added. “Manchester’s (United Kingdom) soccer team was pretty good at the time, we were all rooting for them, and their jerseys were red like watermelon flesh. It was perfect.” 

The Manchester Difference 

Eleven years later Manchester watermelons are the variety of choice for every link of the value chain in Brazil. Its favored status is due to desirable traits for growers and consumers. 

“It’s very consistent overall,” said Erin Doughtie, Americas Regional Portfolio Lead for Watermelon. “Its consistent size, uniform production, good transportability, and field holding capacity, means growers feel they have a reliable product to deliver to the market.” 

Manchester is a leading variety with sizable market share in the large-seeded segment and highly resilient to challenging journeys to markets throughout the country. 

“You don’t always think about it, but Brazil is a huge country,” Doughtie added. “Watermelons can be in the truck for days at a time, and depending on which region the fruit is coming from, the road conditions vary widely . The rind must be resilient to many bumps along the way, which Manchester does well.”

Watermelon Manchester Infographic

Manchester isn’t just durable, it’s adaptable, too. It can be planted almost anywhere from the northernmost to the southernmost point of the country and has excellent field holding ability to give growers harvest window flexibility. If growers want to delay harvest for prices to improve, the fruit can stay on the plant for up to two weeks without over-ripening. 

“In 2021, approximately 34,000 hectares (84,016 acres) of Manchester watermelons were planted in Brazil,” Schiavon said. “We grow watermelons every day of the year. If you’re harvesting in one part of the country, you’re planting in another. Watermelon is so popular in Brazil because everyone – regardless of background or geography – eats it.” 

Protect Quality with Authenticity 

Due to high demand for Manchester seed, sometimes that demand surpasses the supply available. Over the past few years, some have taken advantage of these facts and sold counterfeit Manchester seed, leaving growers with inferior crops and retailers and consumers dissatisfied.  

“We are increasing our production every year because we know growers want it,” Schiavon said. “Today people are selling these F2 varieties from saved Manchester seed, and those seeds don’t come with the same quality, health testing, or support growers receive with real Syngenta F1 seed.” 

The risk for growers who plant saved seed are numerous – and counterfeit sellers don’t tell their buyers it’s saved seed. Growers could plant a product they thought was authentic, only to have problems with disease, yield, and internal defects down the road. 

“Each time saved seed is used, the quality of the crop decreases and you see segregation whereby fruit will start to look like one or the other parent,” Doughtie said. “Furthermore, because the people who are saving and re-selling seed aren’t as stringent as Syngenta is for seed health testing and seed storage, it’s easy for seed health concerns to arise. Major diseases such as Bacterial Fruit Blotch and Gummy Stem Blight can develop on the seeds without the grower’s knowledge, resulting in quarantines on production fields, lost crops, and ultimately lost income.” 

Saved seeds represent significant quality risks to growers because of reduced marketable yield, and retail and consumer dissatisfaction with a subpar product.  

“The idea to guarantee authenticity for true Manchester growers came from an awareness of these risks,” Schiavon said. “It will be carried out through every step of the value chain, as well. This will provide growers with a competitive advantage in the market when they sell their watermelons because retailers and consumers love Manchester and understand the quality of the product.” 

“Retailers and consumers know Manchester for its quality. Seeing a sticker that says, ‘yes, this is a Manchester watermelon,’ will provide them with confidence in their purchase decisions,” he added. 

When growers buy seed, they will receive a sticker of authenticity to apply to each harvested fruit. The sticker guarantees retailers and consumers that the product they’re purchasing is backed by Syngenta genetics and quality control. For growers, they can also have peace-of-mind that comes from working with a qualified Syngenta agronomist to advise them on production techniques throughout the year. 

ⓒ 2022 Syngenta. Some or all of the varieties may be protected under one or more of the following: Plant Variety Protection, United States Plant Patents and/or Utility Patents and may not be propagated or reproduced without authorization.