“It is probably the perception that plant breeding is a lost and old science in the minds of some students coming out of school. There are fewer rural students, due to farm consolidations, that carry an agriculture background. A bigger group of students has to come from urban areas, but they are less likely to be exposed to careers in agriculture, and it doesn’t cross their minds that a career in plant breeding could be rewarding and worthwhile. We need to make students realize that plant breeding is an exciting and new high technology that has dramatically changed. We all need to get the word out to get a bigger share of high-quality students to enter the career.”—Marv Boerboom, Monsanto plant breeder
We need to make students realize that plant breeding is an exciting and new high technology that has dramatically changed.
Biotech Acceptance Continues
“Unprecedented high adoption rates are testimony to overwhelming trust and confidence in biotech crops by millions of farmers worldwide,” said Clive James, founder and chairman of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, commenting on the June 2012 USDA Crop Acreage Report. James said that in the near term, the biggest driver of global biotech crop adoption will be Brazil, followed by China, once approval to commercialize biotech maize in China is in place, which could be as early as 2013. China already has seven million small-scale farmers growing biotech cotton successfully, and recently assigned priority for maize so that China can benefit from enhanced biotech maize, which will increase meat productivity and make the country more self-sufficient for animal feed. As China is becoming more prosperous, more meat is being consumed, which in turn creates more demand for feed crops, maize and soybean, said James.
Irrigation Addressing Seed Shortage
“Obviously our yields will be down, just like everybody else, and we may not have every single hybrid in the quantities needed,” said DuPont Pioneer president Paul Schickler at the recent Farm Progress Show. “But frankly, we over-plant every year, and this year we put in a record number of acres, two-thirds of them irrigated,” said Schickler. He noted that Nebraska, which irrigates heavily, has fared somewhat better than most other Corn Belt states in crop ratings this summer by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We even irrigate for our producers around Durant [in eastern Iowa, where Pioneer has one of its four Iowa-based production plants]. We’ve been mindful for years that drought is a problem that hasn’t gone away.”
Comparing the Droughts of 1988 and 2012
“The pattern of dryness in Illinois was very different in the two years, with southern Illinois relatively better than northern Illinois in 1988,” says Emerson Nafziger, a professor of crop sciences at the University of Illinois. “In 2012, dryness was more evenly distributed, which led to a closer correlation between soil water-holding capacity and yields.” To look at how much yield was lost to drought each year, Nafziger projected trend line yields for each of the drought years based on yields over the 30 previous years. The expected yield (trend line) for 1988 was 129 bushels per acre, and the actual yield that year was 73, so the loss was 56 bushels per acre. In 2012, the expected yield was 173 bushels per acre, and the estimated yield is 116, so the projected loss is 57 bushels per acre, says Nafziger.
GE Sweet Corn Okayed By Walmart
“After closely looking at both sides of the debate and collaborating with a number of respected food safety experts, we see no scientifically-validated safety reasons to implement restrictions on this product,” said Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to the Chicago Tribune after deciding it has no objection to selling genetically engineered sweet corn from Monsanto Company in its stores.
Bayer CropScience recently surveyed farmers at the Farm Progress Show and the results provide valuable insight into what is on the mind of today’s seed buyer. No surprise, 73 percent of respondents to Bayer’s daily survey noted climate and weather problems as the biggest challenge experienced on their farms this year. Weed resistance ranked second in terms of challenges, with 18 percent of growers reporting it to be of significant concern on their farms. Disease prevention (four percent), finances (three percent) and people resources (two percent) rounded out the biggest challenges survey participants faced this year. Growers don’t seem to expect this season’s weather issues to fade either, with 26 percent of farmers surveyed saying that climate change is the biggest challenge to the future of farming. Population growth and food supply were also cited as leading concerns, with 37 percent of growers surveyed ranking them as the biggest challenges to farming’s future. A talent gap (16 percent), energy and renewable fuels (11 percent), and consumers’ negative perception of the technology needed to feed a hungry world (11 percent) were also cited as major future challenges by growers.
“Farming isn’t easy or lucrative; it’s about love for the land, animals and family legacy.”
In addition, growers were also surveyed on what one thing they wished young people or non-ag people knew about the business of farming:
• 36 percent said, “Farming isn’t easy or lucrative; it’s about love for the land, animals and family legacy.”
• 28 percent said, “A lot goes into maintaining a successful farm—management, distribution, processing, accounting, construction, marketing and hard work.”
• 16 percent said, “Modern agriculture has changed considerably in the past 50 years due to technology and population growth.”
• 11 percent said, “Just because produce isn’t at a farmers market doesn’t mean it didn’t come from a family farm (98 percent of all farms are family owned).”
• 9 percent said, “Farmers receive training to use chemicals safely and responsibly to grow food safely.”
December Issue 2012