One Source

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If dealers want one source to provide a pretty complete set of tools for raising profitable crops, they need only look in Syngenta‘s “toolbox.” That was the message this fall when CropLife® was invited to attend Syngenta’s media summit in Charleston, SC, to learn about those resources, including crop protection chemicals, seed and traits, on-call experts, and educational opportunities.

In a big-picture presentation, Travis Dickinson, head of marketing, says the company plans to improve and expand this toolbox, thanks in part to Syngenta’s commitment to research and development (R&D) — to the tune of an $800 million investment in 2005 alone.

Fueling The Excitement

The work comes at a time when unprecedented market opportunities are developing. “In 18 months our markets will be redefined, primarily by biofuels,” Dickinson believes. “While they won’t replace petroleum anytime soon, high oil prices and geopolitics favor biofuels — and demand appears to exceed supply, long-term.”

“Corn profit prospects look great,” affirms Pat Steiner, veteran product manager. He puts prices per bushel well over $3 in 2007, over $4 in 2008, and at $5 for a sustained period of time come 2010.

Steiner was particularly impressed that in September even USDA — seldom noted for spine-tingling projections — estimated that farmers “will need to plant 90 million corn acres by 2010, 10 million more than this year.”

Timely Traits

Growers are demanding more than ever in corn and soybean seed performance, and Syngenta has a host of traits already in use or in development, covering herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, ethanol processing, feed efficiency, drought, yield, disease, nematodes, and specialty oils.

Scott Valentine, project leader of corn and soy traits, addressed the need for hybrids that need less water and nitrogen, especially at a time when more corn will need to be grown in less favorable environments. His team has narrowed the time when kernel set is most damaged by drought stress ­— at pollination — and is now doing the painstaking work of managed outdoor stress trials to isolate drought-tolerance genes.

Syngenta Seeds and its team of sister companies — Northrup King, Golden Harvest, and Garst — will deliver traits to their unique grower markets.

Preserving A Classic

A sizeable chunk of time was devoted to glyphosate resistance, a problem that speakers confirmed is gaining ground across the country. And while growers are being exhorted to use wise management practices, Mark Spinney at Syngenta’s Jealott’s Hill International Research Center in the UK had a sobering market study report. Research consistently shows that “when confronted with crop protection problems like resistant weeds, their [grower] expectation is that industry will bring forward new solutions to remedy the situation.

“Syngenta has an enviable record of innovation in the field of herbicides,” Spinney says, and adds that the company will aggressively continue to seek new active ingredients, though the R&D cost is daunting.

Weed Breakthrough

If new products can be hard to come by, how about using existing ones better? Dr. C.J. Swanton, University of Guelph, Ontario, CAN, presented his groundbreaking work in early season weed control. He has pinpointed the time when weeds must be controlled to prevent unacceptable yield losses. That window — just a matter of days, not weeks — falls earlier than previously thought. Young crops physically adjust their all-important “carbon allocation and canopy architecture,” because they detect neighboring weeds, he says. Bottom line for growers: “Clean fields at the end of the season mean squat. Early season weed control is important not because weeds compete directly with corn for resources, but because weeds change the light quality environment of developing corn seedlings,” says Swanton.

Syngenta will continue passing along these types of practical crop management information “tools,” one avenue being through its Learning Center programs throughout the Mid­west. The goal and company vision, says Dickinson, is to make the company its customers’ first choice for seed and crop protection needs.

Heacox is a Contributing Editor for the CropLife Media Group, which includes CropLife and CropLife IRON magazines, and the PrecisionAg Special Reports.

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