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.

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

Trending Articles

FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More
EquipmentNew Holland Acquires Miller-St. Nazianz
September 3, 2014
The assets of Miller acquired as part of the transaction will become part of New Holland Agriculture, a CNH Industrial brand, building on a successful four-year partnership between the two companies. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires East Kansas Chemical
September 2, 2014
Ranked 82nd on the CropLife 100, East Kansas Chemical will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More
ManagementExpert To Discuss Farmland Value, Rent At Farm Science Review
August 18, 2014
While cropland values in Ohio increased in the past two years, they have remained flat in 2014, declining in some cases, according to an Ohio State University agricultural economist. Read More

Latest News

Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
Equipment2014 Farm Science Review Crowd Tops 2013 Show
September 19, 2014
The 52nd annual Ohio State University Farm Science Review welcomed more than 130,000 farmers, industry professionals, FFA students and agricultural enthusiasts during the three-day event. Read More
Seed/BiotechUSDA Approves Enlist Following Rigorous Review
September 18, 2014
Dow AgroSciences now awaits EPA registration of Enlist Duo herbicide, the companion herbicide to the Enlist traits, which is expected in the near future. Read More
BlendersYargus Appoints New Plant Manager
September 18, 2014
Steve Shaffer will direct and coordinate daily operations at the company’s Marshall, IL, manufacturing plant, where the Layco line of material handling equipment is produced. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires Kansas-Based Cedar Ridge Supply
September 16, 2014
Cedar Ridge Supply will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
StewardshipSecretary Vilsack Highlights Innovative Conservation Ef…
September 15, 2014
Nearly $16 million in Conservation Innovation Grants (CIGs) will be awarded to 47 organizations to help develop cutting-edge ideas to accelerate innovation in private lands conservation. Read More
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Responds To Cargill Lawsuit
September 15, 2014
Syngenta believes that the lawsuit is without merit and strongly upholds the right of growers to have access to approved new technologies. Read More
Equipment2014 Farm Science Review Launches Mobile App
September 15, 2014
Smartphone and tablet users planning on attending the 2014 Farm Science Review can now download this year’s customized mobile application. Read More
CropLife 100Southern States Coop Grower Sets Georgia Soybean Yield …
September 15, 2014
Georgia farmer Randy Dowdy's soybeans yielded an astonishing 110.66 bushels per acre, crushing the previous record of 82 bushels-per-acre. Read More
NIMITZ Treated vs Untreated pepper plant
InsecticidesNIMITZ Nematicide Approved By EPA
September 12, 2014
NIMITZ is a novel, non-fumigant nematicide with simplified application features, user safety and an active ingredient with a unique mode of action. Read More
InsecticidesMarrone Bio Innovations Receives Patent For Chromobacte…
September 11, 2014
The patent is the first step for MBI in developing a commercially viable product to inhibit infestations of corn rootworm larvae across America and other regions. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences: Keeping The Pipeline Stocked
September 11, 2014
Dow AgroSciences is embracing product diversity to drive the company’s future. Read More
CropLife 100CHS Is Official Partner Of New St. Paul Ballpark
September 10, 2014
The new ballpark in St. Paul, MN, officially became CHS Field with Twin Cities-based CHS Inc. revealed as the naming rights partner. Read More
EquipmentHagie Honors Farming Stewardship Leaders
September 10, 2014
The Iowa Farm Environmental Leader award recognizes Iowa farmers as environmental leaders that are committed to healthy soils and improved water quality. Read More
Precision AgPlantBeat: Your Plants’ Pulse In The Palm Of Your Han…
September 10, 2014
A new agronomic monitoring and recommendation service from Phytech could rewrite the book on real-time plant health status monitoring. Read More
StewardshipCCAs Making Headway With 4R Program In Lake Erie Wester…
September 9, 2014
Certified Crop Advisers are implementing the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification program in Lake Erie's Western Basin to improve water quality. Read More
MicronutrientsMicronutrients Going Macro
September 9, 2014
Between 2014’s fantastic growing conditions and a heightened awareness on plant nutrition, the major players in micronutrients are gearing up for another big year. Read More
Crop InputsFMC Announces Cheminova Takeover
September 8, 2014
FMC Corporation today announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Cheminova, a wholly owned subsidiary of Auriga Industries. Read More