Simply Seedsational

Growers planting biotech seed next spring will certainly have a broad array of corn and soybean options to choose from, including the industry’s first eight-stacked trait offerings. In fact, 2010 may well be remembered as the “mother of all biotech seed years” if all the anticipated seed registrations are approved.

That is, until the 2011 season, when another strong group of genetically modified (GM) seed commercial launches are anticipated. Then again, the 2012 pipeline is said to be solid, too.

If there was any doubt before, it’s a certainty now that many of the North American crop protection market leaders — including Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Crop Protection, Monsanto Co., and Syngenta Crop Protection — have successfully hit their stride in the seed market by utilizing acquisitions, restructuring, and research and development (R&D) during the past decade.

The blurring line between seed and ag chemicals emphasizes that those tiny corn and soybean nuggets in your hand are the food, feed, fiber, and fuel currency of not just your business and community, but the world. With that kind of revenue potential, it’s no wonder manufacturers dedicate key resources to their seeds business.

It’s a trend that’s going to continue, say several manufacturers, but in order for your dealership and growers to reap the full rewards, you’ll need to be very seed savvy.

Teaming Up

GM seeds have been popular for some time for their all-in-one ability to provide pest control and improve yields. Now manufacturers go one step further: If they see a better mousetrap part in another company’s cache and can offer something in return, they join forces, stacking their elite traits into power performers. The pairings, which may provide you with more region- or pest-specific product offerings, are already beginning to produce commercial products, including these.

•  One of the most advanced and anticipated collaborations is SmartStax corn, co-developed by Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Dow Chemical Co. The hybrid line stacks eight different genes that provide herbicide tolerance plus above- and below-ground insect protection, enabling reduced corn refuge for insects. Recent approvals from the U.S., Canada, and Japan have it on track for a 2010 commercial launch, which will be separate for each company.

•  Syngenta has teamed up with Dow AgroSciences, stacking its Agrisure and Dow AgroSciences’ Herculex technologies to create new corn hybrids that the two companies will commercialize separately. The cross licensing agreement also provides Dow AgroSciences access to Syngenta’s Ag­risure Viptera trait.

Pending EPA approval, the agreement paves the way for a reduced-refuge stack in Midwestern corn. EPA has approved a nationwide 20% refuge for hybrid stacks containing the Agrisure Viptera event and either the Agrisure 3000GT triple stack or the Agrisure GT/CB/LL (glyphosate tolerant/corn borer/LibertyLink) stack. This is a reduction from the 50% refuge previously required in corn- and cotton-growing areas in the South. Corn growers will benefit from increased flexibility in traits that the combination of technologies provides, says Jerome Peribere, president and CEO of Dow AgroSciences.

•  Dow AgroSciences’ licensing and R&D agreement with Schillinger Seed, Inc. allows the company to commercialize transgenic commodity soybeans. “This will expand the soybean platform for Dow AgroSciences to launch its Dow Herbicide Tolerance (DHT) trait and help accelerate the development and launch of future traits in soybean,” says Peribere. DHT is a new family of traits that will provide tolerance to 2,4-D and other classes of herbicides.

•  This summmer, Bayer Crop­Sci­ence and DuPont Crop Protection entered into a series of long-term business agreements that target increased crop yields. The deals involve Bayer CropSciences’ LibertyLink trait and Dual Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) technology and extend the company’s reach through DuPont subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred’s various markets.

The agreements establish cross-licenses for new multi-insect control and multi-herbicide-tolerant products in corn, multi-herbicide-tolerant products in soybeans, and new herbicide products from Bayer CropScience and the DuPont and Pioneer businesses.

The agreements also resolve outstanding legal and patent disputes between the companies in the area of insect control and herbicide safeners.

2010 Corn Choices

Early planting intentions for the 2010 season are leaning in favor of corn, according to Farm Futures magazine, which surveyed 741 U.S. growers by e-mail between July 24-Aug. 5. Bucking this year’s trend, the survey indicates a corn planting of 87.5 million acres, up 500,000 acres from USDA’s late summer 2009 estimate. Soybean acreage will drop to 75 million acres from 77 million acres this year.

“Corn/soybean price ratios favor soybeans, but many farmers have been disappointed the last two years by their soybean crops,” says Farm Futures Senior Editor Bryce Knorr. “Plus, after planting more beans this year, farmers may want to realign their rotations.”

The new GM corn hybrids choices include the controlled release of the anticipated Optimum GAT corn from Pioneer, which offers glyphosate and ALS (acetolactate synthase inhibitor) tolerance. Regulatory approvals in certain U.S. export markets are taking longer than expected, and the delay will limit the introductory volumes of Pioneer brand corn seed with the Optimum GAT trait to controlled releases in 2010 for corn and 2011 for soybeans. USDA regulatory approval for Optimum GAT corn is on track for later this year.

Pioneer also plans to offer its Opti­mum AcreMax I, pending regulatory approvals, as part of the company’s “Right Product, Right Acres” strategy. “It’s the first system to integrate the refuge hybrid into the bag, in this case corn rootworm refuge,” explains Jerry Harrington, Pioneer’s sales and marketing public relations manager. Your growers won’t need a separate corn rootworm refuge since the refuge plant will be distributed throughout the field. Optimum AcreMax II, which will be available in a few years, will add a corn rootworm trait in the bag. No refuge will be required.

SmartStax corn is expected to be launched by Dow AgroSciences and Monsanto. A key feature is yield advantage, since SmartStax hybrids require a 5% refuge instead of the traditional 20% requirement for first-generation Bt traits.

Monsanto will offer SmartStax under its Genuity brand across its three corn seed channels which include national brands, such as DeKalb, regional brands in the company’s American Seeds, Inc., and license partners through Corn States seed company. Dow AgroSciences will provide SmartStax through its Mycogen and Triumph Seed brands.

Syngenta Seeds anticipates a targeted launch for its Agrisure Viptera trait also with its Greenleaf Genetics. EPA approved two insecticidal trait stacks: Agrisure Viptera trait plus the Agrisure 3000GT stack, designed to provide control of a broad spectrum of lepidopteran corn pests, along with control of corn rootworm and glyphosate and glufosinate herbicide tolerance; and Agrisure Viptera trait plus the Agrisure GT/CB/LL trait stack, providing the same broad-spectrum lepidopteran control and glyphosate and glufosinate herbicide tolerance, but without corn rootworm control.

2010 Soybean Specials

On the soybean side, Southern growers are anticipating the introduction of Monsanto’s Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans in their region in 2010. The second-generation soybean technology has performed strongly in the Midwest already, according to the company. Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans provide the same weed control as Roundup Ready beans, but also add higher yield potential.

Soybean aphids are a key pest in soybean fields, but growers will have a new tool in 2010 to help protect their crop from infestations. Syngenta Seeds says its soybean aphid management system is the first and only fully integrated aphid management system for soybeans. It includes three components: A Cruiser Maxx seed treatment, an aphid-resistant trait in the seed, and money back to clean up with an application of Syngenta’s Warrior insecticide if the population exceeds threshold levels. The system will be available through Garst, Golden Harvest, and NK Seeds.

Syngenta also is launching its new NK-1 Class Soybeans, a superior lineup of NK Soybeans selected for their demonstrated ability to deliver outstanding yield and performance in all environments and against top competitors. This combination protects crops from common yield-robbing diseases and emerging challenges such as sudden death syndrome and Sclerotinia white mold. CruiserMaxx Beans seed treatment coupled with this exclusive class of soybeans improves plant vigor and provides additional yield protection.

They will be distributed by Garst Seed, Golden Harvest, and NK Seeds.

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