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Heleen Bastiaanssen, Breeding Manager Anthura:

"Breeding is in our genes"

Heleen Bastiaanssen (51 years old) has been working as Breeding Manager at Anthura since 2015. Together with her colleagues she challenges herself over and over again to develop new varieties, new colours and new shapes.

Breeding and research united
As Breeding Manager, Heleen Bastiaanssen looks beyond the individual breeding programmes per product group. The boundary between the practical breeding and research intrigues her in a particular way.

“The breeding duration of a new variety is above-average long, often eight to nine years, but with the application of modern research methods we are able to breed increasingly faster and smarter. We consciously establish contacts with external research parties and support our breeders with new techniques.”

Complex matter
One colour purple can arise out of several pigment combinations. The external characteristic, the colour purple, is one phenotype that can be caused by different genotypes (different genes).

The complexity of developing the ideal Anthurium or Orchid is great. Anthura wants to make the variation more easily comprehensible and therefore she creates DNA maps. Heleen is very excited about the steps that can still be made in the breeding of flowers and plants.

“We are looking further than the mere external characteristics of plants/flowers and study the internal (DNA) characteristics and components, like colour pigments. The biggest breeding challenge is to discover the relation between genotype and phenotype, as to breed a product that fulfils the needs and wishes of growers, trade and consumers.”

“Our plants are infinitely more complex”
Due to the lower amount of chromosomes of a tomato, this genetic puzzle is simpler than that of Orchids or Anthurium. In a tomato crop it is also simpler to detect certain features, because a lot of research has already been carried out in this crop.

The breeding of Orchids or Anthurium which Heleen and her team are working on every day, is demanding because of the unfamiliarity of its genetic complexity. They are continuously looking for superior seedlings to convert them in turn into clones.

Solving the genetic puzzle of Orchids and Anthurium will help us to make the development of new varieties more targeted and faster.

Focus on breeding
“Finding the balance between genetic markers and the characteristics on which we want to select is of importance. Where do we put the focus and which efforts are we going to make to phenotype? Now, the focus is on determining the meaningful features. This new approach of breeding fits in the strategic collaboration with the Biotech company Keygene. In this way, we also enrich our expertise in breeding genetics and can apply innovative techniques.”

By specifically focusing on one particular feature of a plant, we can also improve a feature like cold tolerance. For some time, Anthura has been testing in different ways all Anthurium and Orchid varieties for shelf life. Also the cold tolerance during storage and transport is tested and new methods for improving the robustness of plants are developed.

Working together
"Deliver tailored services for all customers worldwide requires a very extended and high quality assortment. As a breeding department we do not do this alone, we work together with all kinds of disciplines and together we create Orchids and Anthuriums that colour the world.”

Source: Anthura Unlimited
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