Seed’s Growth Potential
“I think the seed industry definitely has growth potential. Population continues to grow around the world; therefore, food demand will be higher where political and economic forces don’t restrict consumption. Genetic progress in drought tolerance should open lands on the margin or increase plant densities,” says Scott Downey, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and associate director of the Center for Food and Agricultural Business at Purdue University. “Hopefully, that progress offsets challenges with water availability. Demand pressures potentially keep prices higher, although many suggest that some correction may occur. As long as prices are relatively high, land will be in production and the seed industry should continue to thrive and expand. There is a lot of seed development that goes on [in the United States] which makes the U.S. continue to be relevant, and the variety of crops we’re capable of producing makes it a great place to innovate.”
Farmers Take Sustainability into Their Own Hands
“I know in my part of the country, and from talking to other farmers around the country, 90 percent of the farmers are probably doing 90 percent of the practices and things that are in the protocol,” says Doug Winter, a United Soybean board director and soybean farmer from Mill Shoals, Ill. Winter is referring to the newly developed U.S. Soybean Sustainability Assurance Protocol, which was developed by the American soybean industry to help define and document sustainable performance in soybean production for international customers. “In addition to protecting farmers’ freedom to operate, the protocol ensures that global demand and acceptance for our product will remain strong,” says Winter. “It is a promise that U.S. farmers can keep, because we are committed to responsible production and continuous improvement.”
Join the GMO Conversation
“GMOs are a growing topic of discussion today, with a wide range of questions and emotions on the topic,” says Cathleen Enright, executive director of the Council for Biotechnology Information, sponsor of a new online resource called GMO Answers that provides information on GMOs, their background, use in agriculture, and research and data. “Food is personal, so we want to open the door for personal discussions. We recognize we haven’t done the best job communicating about GMOs—what they are, how they are developed, food safety information—the science, data and processes. We want people to join us and ask their tough questions. Be skeptical. Evaluate the information and decide for yourself. We look forward to an open conversation.”
“Limiting dust-off is an integrated solution.”
“We’re going the extra mile to make sure Bayer SeedGrowth products stay where they should be—in the field launching seed’s performance,” says Marc Andrieux, head of SeedGrowth Technology and Services and SeedGrowth Coatings at Bayer SeedGrowth. His job involves everything from seed drilling equipment modifications to developing new seed coating technology—all in the name of limiting dust-off. “If you aren’t in control of a number of different factors from on-seed application to planting, it could lead to dust-off. Limiting dust-off is an integrated solution at and after on-seed application,” he explains. Minimizing dust-off is nothing new for Bayer, says Andrieux, adding that work on improving dust control—everything from improving product formulations to modifying seed drillers in the field—began several years ago in Europe and has since gone global.
Bringing Wheat into the Next Generation
“With almost a century of experience in the North American wheat industry, the commitment of Syngenta to this all-important crop has never been stronger,” said Norm Dreger, head of North American cereals for Syngenta at the recent U.S. Wheat Associates annual meeting. “Wheat has so many end uses, and it is absolutely critical for world food security. With that level of responsibility comes unique challenges, and we are dedicated to working across the industry to overcome them.” According to Dreger, Syngenta continues to make tangible advancements in wheat transformation. The primary challenge is in producing crops that offer a strong balance of yield and quality. “With wheat, an increase in the crop’s yield potential often means a drop in protein, and vice versa,” Dreger explained. “Syngenta therefore takes a ‘YQ’ approach—not just thinking about only yield or only quality, but yield and quality.”
One technology with strong potential is hybrid wheat, which the company is on track to deliver by 2020. The successful development and release of Syngenta hybrid barley in Europe is informing this innovation, which is expected to bring yield stability, a lower carbon footprint, improved water- and nutrient-use traits, and enhanced disease tolerance.
Greenhouse Produce Takes Off
Though still in its early stages, the U.S. greenhouse industry has been steadily growing over the past decade, according to a report by Rabobank’s Food and Agribusiness Research and Advisory group. This growth, driven in part by the need for more intensive production due to limited land, water and labor, has pushed sales to more than $3 billion and that total is expected to reach more than $4 billion by 2020, says the report entitled The Growing U.S. Greenhouse Produce Niche—Capitalizing on High Tech Quality and Consistency. The report also states that reducing the cost of high-tech greenhouse installations and differentiating from lower cost Mexican shadehouse and low-tech greenhouse competition will be the key to future growth. The report, authored by Karen Halliburton Barber, a senior analyst at FAR, addresses a variety of opportunities for the industry as it grows. “There is a growing preference among U.S. retail and foodservice buyers for greenhouse produce,” says Barber. “These buyers are seeking the quality and reliability of supply that greenhouse products provide.”
Although greenhouse produce is estimated to only represent one to two percent of overall U.S. fresh fruit and vegetable production, there are important trends to keep an eye on. According to the report, greenhouse tomatoes today account for as much as 70 percent of sales. This concentration in business is an indication that the key challenges noted in the report—costs and competition—are not insurmountable.
The report also notes that growth in greenhouse production is likely to continue in the near future. A core challenge to that growth will be educating consumers while differentiating high-tech greenhouse products from lower-tech products, the report states. “Stricter labeling laws as well as greater awareness of certification programs already in place in the U.S. and Canada can aid in this education as well. Success in the niche is expected to continue to favor the most efficient, reliable and experienced producers with advantages in marketing, geography and technology,” says the report.
September Issue 2014
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