Ted Superak: Profile of a Breeding Legend

Ted Superak, a squash and pumpkin plant breeder, who has been with HM.CLAUSE for over 40 years, won the 2014 Cucurbitacae Outstanding Cucurbit Scientist Award on October 16th, 2014. The award was announced at the Cucurbitaceae Conference in Bay Harbor, Michigan.

Mr. Superak, a highly inspiring scientist, has been described by a longtime colleague, as “a humble genius who seems to be a constant stream of innovation.” His praises don’t go without reason. One of Ted’s major breeding accomplishments include making interspecific crosses to add the Cucurbita moschata virus resistance to zucchini. He has made contributions to cucurbit science focusing primarily on squash and pumpkin and has been awarded more than 13 patents including pumpkin variety ZYD5B, breeding and selection for resistance to Melon Severe Mosaic Virus (MESMV), inbred squash line 833 and Squash Leaf Curl Virus (SLVC).

Having received his Master’s degree from Rutgers University in Horticulture and Forestry in 1971 and his PH.D from Cornell University in Plant Breeding in 1975, soon after, Ted began working for Harris Seeds (now HM.CLAUSE). The collection of work done by Ted over these years has proved to be very successful, with one of his first contributions being the melon, Superstar F1. Other notable varieties from Ted’s storied career include: Tigress – the first zucchini with ZYMV resistance; Hurakan – a grey zucchini from Mexico that dominated sales in that market; Multipik – the first yellows precocious straight neck squash; and Magic Lantern – the first powdery mildew resistant pumpkin that remained a top seller in the world until it was replaced by another of his varieties, Gladiator. Another accomplishment includes co-writing a chapter in the book Resistance to Viral Diseases and Vegetable – Genetics & Breeding entitled “Interspecific Transfer of Plant Viral Resistance in Cucurbita”. Authors: Theodore H. Superak, Brian T. Scull, Molly M. Kyle & Henry M. Munger.

More than a scientist, Ted is known for his passion and his outstanding character. Bill Copes, a colleague of over 30 years describes Ted as “a man full of passion who brings a smile to everyone he meets.” He has mentored and inspired many young breeders during his career. “A true plant biologist with a real and deep ability to create varieties customers didn’t even know they needed” says George Kotch, the VP of R&D.