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
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Delivers Two New Winter Wheat Varieties To Eastern Corn Belt
August 6, 2014
Adding to its portfolio of AgriPro brand wheat varieties, Syngenta introduces SY 007 and SY 474 soft red winter wheat varieties. Read More
Seed/BiotechWater Optimized Seed Flowing Freely
April 1, 2014
As the demand for ag to diminish its water use while maintaining high yields and crop quality increases, three companies are leading the movement to grow more with less water. Read More
Seed/BiotechBayer Applies For Seed Treatment That Protects Against Sudden Death Syndrome
February 26, 2014
If approved, ILeVO seed treatment would be the first product to provide breakthrough protection for soybean seedlings from the soil borne pathogen Fusarium virguliforme, the fungus that causes SDS. Read More
Seed/BiotechSeed Still Central
November 1, 2013
Advancing genetics continue to make seed the crop variable that calls the shots for the season. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
Carl Casale of CHS
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
Latest News
FungicidesSyngenta Suing Willowood Over Azoxystrobin Fungicide
March 27, 2015
Syngenta announced today that it has sued agrochemical maker Willowood, LLC., for patent and copyright infringement, as well as unfair Read More
ManagementRetail Week: The Future Of Mycogen Seeds; The 4Rs At Na…
March 27, 2015
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Matt Hopkins discuss recent trips, including a look at the future of Mycogen Seeds at Dow Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto Hears The WHO
March 27, 2015
Another challenge to the safety of glyphosate, and the responses from supporters and opponents, calls to mind a classic Dr. Seuss story. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Plant Food Expands Sales Team
March 27, 2015
Monty’s Plant Food Company, a leader in natural soil enhancement and  plant fertility products, has hired Andrew Bullock as a Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Louisiana Plant Poised For 2015 Production
March 26, 2015
As the 2015 planting season gets underway, growers across the country will need crop protection products to combat pests and Read More
Lake Erie Nutrient Stewardship
LegislationOhio Lawmakers Finalize Phosphorus Restrictions
March 25, 2015
State lawmakers on Wednesday finalized new rules designed to curb toxic algal blooms on Lake Erie, calling the regulations a major step forward in addressing the problem. Read More
Spreaders17 Fertilizer Spreaders For 2015
March 25, 2015
Manufacturers shoot for versatility and accuracy in this year's crop of fertilizer spreaders. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Hires Mid-South Product Consultant
March 25, 2015
Monty's Plant Food Co. has hired Matt Woodring as a Product Consultant for portions of Central Kentucky and Tennessee.    Read More
StewardshipMapShots Integrates With DriftWatch
March 23, 2015
Growers and agricultural providers using AgStudio FARM and AgStudio PRO can now view vital information about specialty crops and apiaries through a recent integration with the DriftWatch Specialty Crop Site Registry from FieldWatch, Inc. Read More
Crop InputsWorld Health Organization Report Contradicts Scientific…
March 23, 2015
A new report from the World Health Organization has classified glyphosate with a “2A” rating as a probable carcinogen, a Read More
Eric SfiligojSeed Treatment Stays Necessary
March 20, 2015
Grower-customers looking to scale back spending in 2015 won’t consider seed treatment, say experts. Read More
HerbicidesMARCH MADNESS: Industry Rallies Around Glyphosate Safet…
March 20, 2015
A newly published report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the herbicide glyphosate as a "2A-rated possible carcinogen" and the ag industry responds by circling the wagons. Read More
ManagementRetail Week: Precision survey, a technology acquisition…
March 20, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sflilgoj discuss recent travel, the upcoming precision adoption survey, and an unusual sighting at a Read More
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Crop InputsBioSafe Launching TerraGrow Soil Inoculant
March 20, 2015
TerraGrow is a blend of beneficial bacterial and fungal spores and nutrients carefully designed to promote healthier soil and crops. Read More
Winter Wheat
AdjuvantsMax Systems Debuts New Adjuvant NanoRevolution 2.0
March 18, 2015
Added to a tank mix of glyphosate at the conservative rate of two to four ounces per acre, NanoRevolution 2.0 has proven effective in killing resistant weed species that had already had up to two applications of the leading glyphosate product. Read More
Photo credit: United Soybean Board/the Soybean Checkoff
Seed/BiotechAgnition Launches Microbial Catalyst Seed Treatment
March 18, 2015
Agnition it has launched Commence for Soybeans, a microbial catalyst seed treatment for soybeans that stimulates microbial activity for healthier soil and a superior growth environment. Read More
4R Certified, Nutrient Stewardship Council,
StewardshipTyler Grain & Fertilizer Now 4R Certified
March 18, 2015
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced Tyler Grain & Fertilizer Co. in Smithville, OH, has been added to Read More