Seed World

Why Plant Breeders Deserve More Credit — and Also More Funding

Agriculture is full of unsung heroes: men and women who invest all of themselves in protecting the land, feeding the world, and improving farming. I’m talking about farmers, of course, but I’m talking also about another too-often underappreciated group: plant breeders.

Our Alliance Seed team invests as much time as possible walking trial plots, looking closely at what’s new and notable in upcoming varieties, and talking to breeders. At a recent plot tour, I was reminded of how much work goes into bringing a new variety to producers’ hands, how incredibly diverse the traits are that plant breeders are able to influence and shape, and how today’s varieties truly are tools that make producers so much more efficient.

Consider how many agronomic challenges have been overcome and how much yield we’ve gained over the past two decades in almost all crops. Now breeders are focusing on major improvements in everything from drought tolerance to disease resistance.

As someone involved in the business of selling seed (and a self-confessed science geek), I always appreciate any opportunity to build relationships with plant breeders. Our conversations aren’t just about what’s coming down the pipe, though. Plant breeders need two things from industry: information and direct support. Seed companies, especially smaller ones like Alliance Seed that are more directly connected to producers, play a really important role as information conduits between producers and plant breeders.

We want to hear what producers need, value and prioritize, since that’s the information that, once we pass it on to breeders, will fundamentally shape the direction of breeding programs. Breeders need support in the forms of trial locations industry relationships, and yes, financial support through your continued annual certified seed purchases. Plant breeders aren’t doing their work for us; they’re doing it with us.

If you haven’t got out for field days this season, it’s not too late. Most trial programs offer formal plot walks and informal visiting opportunities right up until harvest. Make time: I promise it’s time well spent. See you in the field, where we can high-five those hard-working plant breeders together!