My career in the seed business

13/02/2012 9:17:00 AM by J.J Cocke

J.J CockeMy career in the seed business began in September, l966. I began by selling some of the first hybrid sorghum seeds, AMAK R-10 and R-12, in southwestern New Mexico, and the southeastern and central portions of Arizona.


Through the years, I transferred to sales positions in the vegetable divisions of the seed industry. The most significant development I witnessed in these positions was the hybridization of vegetable seeds. Not only did this accomplishment give the grower a stronger, more vigorous plant with high yields, it more importantly gave the plants disease resistance.
During the time I spent selling open pollinated seeds, the grower had to put his faith in his local seedsman to recommend the company carrying the cleanest and purest strain of the product that he choose. Today, I feel this relationship of trust is even more important, because there are so many similar hybrids. A grower needs to feel confident that the person selling to him knows the product lines well, and will help choose the best hybrid seed for him, without prejudice or financial gain. This is only accomplished through building up a good relationship with a seedsman who has a good reputation and the knowledge and understanding of good service and judgment. An example of this would be for the seedsman to know the importance of growing tomatoes today in protective cultures, with all the handling and pruning, if the plants have not been bred to resist TMV. Under the same type of growing conditions with plants not bred for TMV resistance, the grower’s entire crop and investment would be compromised.

Another big change I was able to observe firsthand, was the innovation of drip irrigation in Mexico. Growers had been flood irrigating their vegetable crops, and cultivating with mules. (Today there is still some cultivating with mules, but not very often). Along with the Israeli technology of drip irrigation, came the practice of using protective nets, plastics, or full greenhouses.

Today, the winter production in West Mexico spans from Mazatlan to close to Nogales, encompassing the states of Sinaloa and Sonora. Production also takes place in the northern and southern ends of the Baja Peninsula. All of this progress in the production of vegetables in Mexico has kept the import of winter vegetables into the United States competitive and sometimes extremely lucrative for the growers.

A few years ago, one of my good friends reported to his sales staff that if a seed was not super sweet, seedless, or had a long shelf life that it would not sell easily. Today we can see that he was absolutely correct!