Seed Survival

Biotech Seed

The U.S. economy has been in a recession for well over a year now, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Agriculture tends to stay strong even in such downturns, but monetary shortages and a credit crisis have put a damper on growers’ ability to buy crop inputs. With crop protection products growing more expensive — and more scarce, as manufacturers scale down production — biotech seeds capable of resisting insect pests and other crop dangers are becoming an important component of the industry. Says Pioneer Business Director Steve Reno: “Growers want to maximize returns so we want to keep a system in place that helps them select the right traits and products for their soil. With the volatile prices we’re seeing, these kinds of decisions are more important than ever. There are a lot of dollars tied to them.”

Decades after the first genetically modified (GM) seeds were created, manufacturers are still finding new ways to combat crop damage through genetics.

Resistance Works

Years of advanced chemistry have enabled growers to destroy insect and weed pests that pose a danger to their crops; at the same time, some crops have fallen victim to these same chemicals. Bioengineering has enabled growers to plant seeds that are naturally resistant to the chemicals they use to keep their fields healthy without harming their crops. In the U.S., farmers grow GM crops on about 48% of harvested crop acreage, or 300 million acres, says Sharon Bomer-Laurisen, executive vice president, food and agriculture section, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), which represents over 1,100 biotech companies, academic institutions, and related organizations in the U.S. and 31 other nations. Bomer-Lauritsen says biotechnology is used in 86% of cotton, 92% of soybeans, and 80% of corn in U.S. agriculture.

GM crops reached nearly one-tenth of global crop production in 2008. The coming year will see even more being accepted, such as Monsanto’s second generation Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans, which received European Union (EU) import approval in December 2008. EU imports accounted for approximately 10% of U.S. soybean exports in 2007 — a potentially huge market for Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans, which will be introduced on 1 million to 2 million U.S. acres for the 2009 season as part of a controlled commercial release.

Increasing Profit

Extending the growing season can greatly improve harvests, and manufacturers are working to develop traits that will expand not just the growing season, but the growing area; for example, Syngenta is working on specific corn hybrids for high soil pH tolerance and drought tolerance. Other traits could increase the yield’s profitability, such as Syngenta’s research into corn’s ethanol rating and feed value.

Thousand Oaks, CA-based Ceres, Inc. has launched its first seed sales of non-food, low carbon crops under its Blade Energy Crops label. The switchgrass and high-biomass sorghum seed — developed specifically as raw materials for biofuels and bioenergy — will be available in early January.

“Traits will continue to be an important tool for the seed industry,” says Tom Strachota, CEO, Dairyland Seed. “Trait providers are investing heavily to bring new products to market, and that will increase the choices for producers.”

Joining Forces

For years, stacked traits have been the biggest sellers on the scene, providing growers the ability to improve yields and combat the forces of nature all in one seed. Companies are moving beyond stacking their own traits, however, and are beginning to build upon one another’s. Pioneer’s Optimum GAT technology — due out in soybeans in 2009 and corn in 2010 — provides tolerance to glyphosate and ALS (acetolactate synthase) herbicides, as well as improving yield. Syngenta has obtained the rights to Optimum GAT technology, and has joined with DuPont’s Pioneer to create GreenLeaf Genetics, a joint venture to market their genetics to other seed companies. At the same time, Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences have joined forces to develop SmartStax corn — a stack of eight different genes for herbicide tolerance and insect protection.

Hitting Fields In 2009

This year will see some interesting varieties hit the market. In December 2008, Pioneer introduced a new business strategy, PROaccess, to increase its market reach through co-brands, second brands, and investments. PROaccess will give Pioneer access to distribution systems covering an additional 5% of US corn acres. In addition to acquiring the Curry Seed brand, Pioneer will use its PROaccess distribution network for VPMaxx, G2, Supreme EX, and HPT corn and soybean varieties, as well as RPM corn hybrids.

Asgrow has introduced a line of 24 high-performing Elites soybeans, with five designed specifically for the Delta region: AG 4606, resistant to Race 3 soybean cyst nematode; AG 4907, providing multi-race Phytophthora protection; AG 5304, which has good tolerance to southern stem canker and frogeye leaf spot; AG 5405, stacked against all of the above pests; and AG 5606 resistant to southern root knot nematode and suited for clay soils. The company also plans to release several brands of Asgrow Roundup Ready 2 Yield — Monsanto’s second generation soybean technology — across 1 million to 2 million acres in 2009. Bayer CropScience will be heavily promoting glyphosate-resistant LibertyLink soybeans in 2009, while Syngenta plans for more Agrisure 3000 GT, as well as more NK soybeans.

Seed Stock Uncertainty

With so many varieties available and more coming out all the time, which — and how many — should a retailer stock? In today’s economic climate, it’s hard to gamble on what growers might need. For example, Syngenta’s Agronomy Research shows the effect of planting dates on corn yields over 14 years and 59 locations. Data proves that fields planted from April 4 to May 10 produce much higher yields than those planted later. Early planting, however, can leave fields open to devastating loss from sudden cold snaps or vicious spring storms. In 2008, U.S. corn harvests were planted behind schedule due to weather. Should retailers focus on weather-resistant seeds, in case 2009 repeats this pattern?

On the other hand, USDA will review federal guidelines on Jan. 20 as to whether it should deregulate GM corn for ethanol production. If it does, GM corn varieties could be a sound investment.

It will basically come down to a region by region basis; if glyphosate resistance is a major problem in the area, then those seeds engineered for glyphosate tolerance will be important to that market.

Whichever direction retailers choose to go this year, experts recommend limiting GM seed stock to just a few of the many varieties now available to reduce economic risk. With the next big wave of biotech seeds scheduled to arrive in 2010/11, there’s plenty of time to stock up on the new, the improved, and the valuable.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

Seed/Biotech Stories

dicamba, Roundup Ready 2 Xtend
Crop InputsASA: No Dicamba On Roundup Ready 2 Xtend In 2016
May 16, 2016
While Roundup Ready 2 Xtend (RR2X) are tolerant to dicamba and glyphosate herbicides, no dicamba herbicides will be approved for Read More
Crop InputsGMO Pipeline Features Consumer Targeted Modifications
April 15, 2016
The newly approved GMO Simplot Innate potato, developed to produce lower amounts of the harmful-yet-natural chemical acrylamide, resist bruising, and Read More
Crop InputsReuters: Chinese GMO Seed Espionage Making Iowa Farmers Uneasy
April 12, 2016
Tim Burrack, a northern Iowa farmer in his 44th growing season, has taken to keeping a wary eye out for Read More
Peanut field
FungicidesArysta LifeScience Receives EPA Approval Of Fungicide Seed Treatment
April 5, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced it received approval from the EPA of RANCONA V PD, a broad-spectrum fungicide dust Read More
Trending Articles
Eric SfiligojPity The Monsanto Haters
May 23, 2016
An old saying goes thus: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” Given current events, there Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Crop InputsReport: Bayer Eyeing Monsanto For Possible Mega-Merger
May 16, 2016
Bayer AG is exploring a potential bid for U.S. competitor Monsanto Co. in a deal that would create the world’s Read More
Aerial Drone
Precision AgA Deeper Dive Into The Future Of Precision Ag
May 9, 2016
For about two decades now, through the good and the bad times, the ups and the downs inherent in agriculture, Read More
Palmer amaranth in soybean stubble
HerbicidesWSSA: Billions In Potential Economic Losses From Uncontrolled Weeds
May 4, 2016
What losses would corn and soybean growers experience if they were forced to eliminate herbicides and other control techniques from Read More
Eric SfiligojReasons For Hope In Commodity Prices
May 2, 2016
For many months now, the doomsayers have ruled the day in agriculture. Too much supply with too little demand would Read More
Eric SfiligojMissing The Family Ties In Agriculture
April 25, 2016
By its nature, the agriculture market is cyclical. Up and down cycles come and go with a regular pattern. For Read More
Latest News
ManagementAgriculture 3.5: A Bumpy Road Ahead
May 24, 2016
You may have read my article a few years ago on Agriculture 3.0, which is a term I coined to Read More
Topcon’s X30 display with CropSpec sensors
EquipmentGPS Autosteer Systems: Product Updates From Precision A…
May 24, 2016
Throughout 2015 GPS Steering solutions continued to evolve from what was once an after-market add on, to today’s cab where Read More
Trimble TMX-2050 In-Cab Display
Eric SfiligojThe Precision Ag Revolution Continues
May 24, 2016
It’s funny how much “the first time” tends to mean to someone as they get older. I sometimes can’t recall Read More
Eric Wintemute, AMVAC
Precision AgAMVAC Ups The Ante With New Precision Ag Technology
May 24, 2016
A potentially industry-changing at-plant soil treatment system from American Vanguard Corp., or AMVAC, is coming soon to large growers in Read More
Dry and Liquid Plant
CropLife 100CropLife 100 Map
May 24, 2016
The new CropLife 100 map shows the locations of each of the headquarters of the 2015 CropLife 100 retailers. The interactive Read More
Southern States Cooperative
Corn Field
Industry NewsTiger-Sul Names Veteran Account Manager To Lead Central…
May 23, 2016
With the continuing growth of the sulphur bentonite and precision crop nutrient industry, global agriculture firm H.J. Baker has announced that Read More
Bayer sign
Industry NewsReuters: Bayer Defies Critics With $62 Billion Monsanto…
May 23, 2016
German drugs and crop chemicals group Bayer has offered to buy U.S. seeds company Monsanto for $62 billion in cash, Read More
Eric SfiligojPity The Monsanto Haters
May 23, 2016
An old saying goes thus: “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.” Given current events, there Read More
Industry NewsCompass Minerals Hires Industry Veteran To Lead Plant N…
May 19, 2016
Compass Minerals has hired plant nutrition industry veteran Vatren Jurin to steer the company’s portfolio expansion into specialty liquid micronutrient Read More
ASMARK Retailers LIVE! Tour 2016 Group shot The Andersons
CropLife 100The Andersons Rejects Unsolicited Proposal From HC2
May 19, 2016
The Andersons, Inc. has announced that its Board of Directors has rejected two non-binding, highly conditional, unsolicited proposals from HC2 Read More
glyphosate
Crop InputsWHO: Glyphosate ‘Unlikely’ To Cause Cancer
May 16, 2016
Via Reuters.com reporter Kate Kelland: The weed-killing pesticide glyphosate, made by Monsanto and widely used in agriculture and by gardeners, Read More
dicamba, Roundup Ready 2 Xtend
Crop InputsASA: No Dicamba On Roundup Ready 2 Xtend In 2016
May 16, 2016
While Roundup Ready 2 Xtend (RR2X) are tolerant to dicamba and glyphosate herbicides, no dicamba herbicides will be approved for Read More
CPP, glyphosate, dicamba, atrazine,
Crop InputsReport: Congress Pressing EPA On Glyphosate Review Hand…
May 16, 2016
Via Reuters.com reporter P.J. Huffstutter: U.S. lawmakers have asked EPA to explain why it published – and then withdrew – Read More
Monsanto Luling Plant
Crop InputsReport: Bayer Eyeing Monsanto For Possible Mega-Merger
May 16, 2016
Bayer AG is exploring a potential bid for U.S. competitor Monsanto Co. in a deal that would create the world’s Read More
ManagementAsmark Institute Tour Observations
May 12, 2016
Special Guest CropLife Field Editor Matthew Grassi discusses his week-long visit with 45 ag retailers as part of the Asmark Read More
MicronutrientsCompass Minerals Expands Trial Work For Wolf Trax Innov…
May 12, 2016
Fertilizer manufacturer Compass Minerals continues to expand the evaluation program for its Wolf Trax micronutrient fertilizer products, according to a Read More
Young Corn Closeup
Industry NewsArysta Adds To Marketing Team
May 12, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the addition of David Davies to its marketing team. As marketing manager, Davies will Read More