Archive for the ‘Monsanto’ Category

Why is Everyone Interested in Wheat Breeding?

September 26, 2009

As I have noted before on this site, this summer has been very interesting in terms of the changing landscape in wheat research and breeding. Monsanto, Bayer, and Syngenta are all engaged in the wheat breeding game. I have received, many emails from readers, asking the same question.

“What will this mean for my farm in the future?”

This is a great question. One can only speculate at this point but from a genetics standpoint it does really provide some interesting potential outcomes. Higher yields and lower environmental impacts are the most discussed by breeders and stakeholders. The other side of this discussion is the questions around saved seed and the possibilities of technology use agreements. In my mind if the product has benefits to the farmer, the farmer will pay for the technology. If there is no advantage then the farmer will not pay. This is simple economics and applicable in any market segment and not just agriculture. I think that it is silly for people to suggest that farmers are forced to buy hybrid seed. In my experience, farmers that have the right land and environmental conditions, demand hybrid seed. If you don’t have the proper land or conditions use choose other options.

The following video was produced by Monsanto but shows why wheat is such an important crop to farmers and seed companies.

The reality is that the future really is wide open for global wheat production. With large biotech companies now engaged the next ten years will prove to be interesting at the very least. On top of this is the huge contribution that conventional breeders will provide. Wheat is the global staple crop. There is a wheat harvest happening every month of the year somewhere in the world.

The following video with Jay Bradshaw, President of Syngenta Canada discusses why biotech wheat will have benefits and why the variety registration system is too slow to enable innovation. It was filmed in February 2009.

Please let me know what you think about the future of wheat. What kind of improvements would you like to see in wheat vareties?

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ILC 2009: Earl Geddes – VP at CWB – Wheat Breeding and the Future of Biotech Wheat

July 22, 2009

In case you have not been following the story very closely, the debate over biotech wheat is about to restart again. Cereal breeding in North America has been on the downtrend. The past three months have brought wheat breeding investments by Dow Agro, Monsanto and Bayer. These strategic moves are quite obviously being executed so that beneficial proprietary traits can be inserted into wheat genetics. As mentioned before on this site, many possibilities open up to the consumer and not just the farmer if biotech wheat is introduced. At the International Livestock Congress at the Calgary Stampede, Earl Geddes and I discussed the future direction of wheat breeding and how biotech wheat may lead us there.


Check out more International Livestock Congress content


Monsanto Buys Westbred LLC

July 16, 2009

With this weeks announcement that Monsanto is buying Westbred LLC it is very clear that the biotech industry will have a say in the future direction of the wheat breeding business. As I have mentioned on this site before, pull type traits like drought and nitrogen use efficiency will be big components of the Monsanto breeding program in all crop types and not just wheat. 

Click Here to see the comments to me from @MonsantoCo regarding the focus

With the recent push for biotech wheat by the biotech wheat coalition and this announcement, you can ultimately expect all of the biotech industry to heavily invest in wheat breeding over the next twenty years. With Syngenta, Dow Agro, and Monsanto all involved in wheat breeding the objective will be increased value creation for the whole value chain. After attending the CSTA summer meeting this past week in Whistler, it is quite clear that the industry must invest more in wheat breeding if we are going to see some of the benefits found in other crop types.

Based on the fact biotech wheat is not accepted globally it will be interesting to see what moves these breeding programs make in the meantime in the conventional plant breeding areas. One thing is for sure the world of wheat genetics is getting very interesting and this story is not quite over yet. More to come definitely.

Monsanto’s Application For Drought Tolerant Gene Provides Pull Type Trait Development

March 31, 2009

There has been a lot of confusion amongst some people regarding Monsanto‘s application for GM drought tolerant corn for feed and food use in Canada and the United States. The application has been made and could be ready if approved fro commercialization in 2012 or 2013. This gene will provide farmers with the ability to stabilize yield during adverse rainfall conditions. In my mind this is the kind of 2nd generation trait development that is going to provide excellent production benefits to farmers and have added benefits to the general public.

According to Trish Jordan, Public Relation Lead at Monsanto Canada in Winnipeg, agriculture accounts for 70% of the worlds annual water usage. Traits that allow plants like corn to use less of it will have a positive impact on the environment.

Lately on Twitter, there has been a lot of public criticism of Monsanto “pushing” this technology on the public. A couple weeks ago I spoke to some University of Lethbridge Agriculture students about the second generation of trait development which will provide not only production benefits but also greater benefits for the general public. I call this pull type trait development instead of push type trait development. Ask any city dwelling friend who knows nothing about agriculture whether or not they think we should develop plants that use less water but remain just as productive. I would imagine that they would think that it was a great idea. Pull type GMOs will become more acceptable for the general public because they provide benefits to all of society. Push type GMOs really only provide direct benefits for farmers because they were strictly production based and do not affect city people. Monsanto is not “pushing” the drought tolerant gene on anyone. This is a gene that farmers and people concerned about the environment will benefit from. Sounds like a positive innovation to me.

There Will Not Be 17 Million Canola Acres In Western Canada in 2009

March 21, 2009

There is much speculation around canola acres for 2009 in Western Canada. Farmers are hesitant to order canola seed, retailers are hesitant to speculate on inventory, distributors are cautious, and seed companies will not treat on speculation just to make sure seed is available for spring. What we have here is a system that is so built on just in time inventory management that with every day that passes the opportunity for the industry to supply 16 to 17 million acres of seed becomes impossible.

What makes this year different than others is that the industry has the bare seed available to supply these records acres. The challenge is that orders are very slow as farmers have shown hesitation across the prairies in ordering canola seed. This wait and see strategy is applicable in cereals but in canola it could cause forced seed shortages to the marketplace. Canterra Seeds, Brett Young, Monsanto (Dekalb) and Pioneer do not treat their entire inventory and wait for the farmer to make up his mind. All bare canola seed is not treated until the order has been placed by the distributor who has an order from the retailer who has an order from the farmer.  The reason that no one in the chain is willing to spec on inventory to ensure that there is in season supply is because the inventory carry over penalties are very punitive. Probably the only company that treats all of its inventory every year regardless of orders is Bayer (Invigor) because they are always sold out with the exception of this year.  The only companies rumored to be up in sales versus last year at this point are Dow (Nexera) and Cargill (Victory).  

My suggestion is that if you are planning to plant canola this spring book your seed now to ensure that you have supply.  If there is going to be demand for 16 to 17 million acres it will be a good idea to have your canola seed variety ordered.  Based on the just in time system that we have created to manage inventory costs, everyday that passes without canola orders will raise the probability that canola acres will not reach 16 or 17 million acres this year because there will not be enough seed on the retailers warehouse floor.  The big variable is whether or not one of the companies places a  big bet and treats a bunch of spec seed to ensure they will be able to supply the short market in the spring.  It should be interesting.