Industry News – June 2012
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BASF has appointed Raman Ramachandran as senior vice president of the company’s Crop Protection division for the Asia Pacific region. In his new role, Ramachandran will drive the division’s ambitious growth plans in the region, which saw an 11 percent increase in sales last year. Ramachandran has held various senior management positions in the Asia Pacific region.
Wyffels Hybrids has added a fourth region to its sales structure in Iowa, which covers 22 counties and three million corn acres in the southwestern part of the state. Bill Backhaus has been named as regional manager of the new region and will supervise four Wyffels Hybrids district sales managers. Prior to joining Wyffels, Backhaus held a variety of positions in his 14 years working with the Dekalb seed brand, including territory sales manager, local field adviser and key account representative.
The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Consortium has appointed Frank Rijsberman as its new chief executive officer. In his new role, Rijsberman will be responsible for leading the CGIAR Consortium, providing funding, leadership and oversight for the Consortium Office, forging effective research partnerships, and overseeing the ongoing implementation of the CGIAR’s strategic research programs.
Arysta LifeScience North America has announced two leadership team changes, effective immediately. Dana Sargent, formerly regulatory affairs lead, has been promoted to head of regulatory affairs and laboratory services. Jeff Tweedy, formerly head of business development and regulatory, has been appointed as the new head of sales for agriculture and turf and ornamental in the United States.
Bayer CropScience LP has named David Hollinrake vice president of Agricultural Commercial Operations Marketing for the United States. In this role, he will be responsible for strategy development and execution for the ACO marketing organization and serve as a member of the North American leadership team.
AgReliant Genetics has named Craig Newman as its president and chief executive officer, effective July 1, 2012. Newman brings 33 years of experience in the seed business to the position, having previously served as vice president of sales and marketing for AgReliant and in various management roles with Akin Seed and Callahan Seeds, which later became part of AgReliant Genetics.
BASF has reached an exclusive supply agreement with Monsanto Company for fungicide seed treatments for cotton and soybeans in North America. Monsanto’s next generation Acceleron seed treatment products for soybeans and cotton will contain F500—the same active ingredient found in Headline fungicide—and the innovative Xemium fungicide, which is expected to be registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency this year. A new generation of the carboxamide class of chemistry, Xemium provides superior control of key soybean and cotton diseases.
EnviroLogix Inc. has expanded its product platform offerings to a molecular level with the introduction of DNAble–the first commercially-available isothermal DNA test platform for plant pathogen detection. DNAble is a nucleic acid-based testing platform which isothermally amplifies a target genome for pathogen detection in less than 20 minutes. DNAble utilizes nicking enzymes to open the double-stranded structure of DNA for amplification. DNAble allows the user to accurately detect pathogens on-site, with excellent sensitivity and specificity.
Evogene Ltd. has launched Athlete 4.0, a new version of its technology for the discovery of novel genes for improving plant performance. To date, Evogene has discovered over 3,000 novel genes relating to key plant traits such as yield, drought tolerance, fertilizer utilization and plant disease resistance, through earlier versions of the Athlete and validated in plants. Patents have been filed or granted with respect to all of these discoveries. The new Athlete 4.0 relies on a series of proprietary tools and algorithms, which substantially accelerates Evogene’s gene discovery capabilities by integrating multiple levels of plant data types.
Bayer CropScience has acquired the germplasm assets of ProSoy Genetics, the soybean breeding division of privately-held Thompson Agronomics based in Leland, Iowa. The acquisition broadens the maturity range of soybean germplasm available to Bayer’s existing breeding efforts, and also provides a vehicle for delivering Bayer’s LibertyLink and other desirable traits into the Midwestern marketplace.
Switzerland-based Glencore International Plc. has acquired all of the issued and outstanding shares of Canadian-based Viterra Inc. for CDN$16.25 per share. The acquisition of Viterra is consistent with Glencore’s strategy of strengthening its position as one of the global leaders in grain and oilseeds markets. According to Glencore, Viterra’s portfolio of assets in Canada and Australia will allow the company to build upon its position as one of the world’s largest commodity suppliers, and provide the opportunity to leverage Glencore’s extensive global networks. As a result of the asset sale agreements Glencore has entered into with Agrium Inc. and Richardson International Limited, the transaction is expected to result in the creation of a more robust competitive landscape for Canadian farmers.
INCOTEC and KeyGene have announced their strategic collaboration on DNA-based single nucleotide polymorphisms technology. Together with INCOTEC, KeyGene will develop, identify and select SNPs from a number of crops and use them for testing hybrid purity and variety verification. For each crop a proprietary set of SNPs will be developed and tested on broad germplasm collections originating from all over the world. Both companies will make these unique SNP sets available for a broad range of seed companies. The development and commercialization of the SNP sets will be developed for vegetables as well as field crops such as corn, sunflower and cotton.
Syngenta and Novozymes have reached a global agreement under which Syngenta will work with Novozymes to commercialize JumpStart, a seed-applied biological which increases phosphate solubility in the soil. The two companies will jointly develop the market for JumpStart in combination with Syngenta’s Seed Care portfolio on crops including cereals and corn. The agreement extends the geographic potential of JumpStart, currently sold mainly in North America, to the rest of the world.
BGI, the world’s largest genomics organization, and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics have jointly signed a memorandum of understanding for a long-term collaboration on applied genomics research and molecular breeding. The partnership aims to enhance precision of breeding programs for semi-arid tropic crops by using next-generation sequencing technologies towards crop improvement for sustainable food production, particularly in the drylands of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
A new collaboration between BioDiagnostics Inc. and Douglas Scientific LLC promises to open the world of DNA-based testing tools to entirely new audiences in the food and fiber industries. BDI plays an important role in the advancement of DNA-based technologies by providing a wide range of genetic testing services to the seed industry. This collaboration with Douglas Scientific allows BDI to triple its testing capacity and reduce the cost of each data point by more than half compared to its previous testing methods.
The Two Blades Foundation has completed a non-exclusive license agreement with Monsanto Company for access to the TAL Code technology for genome engineering in plants. The Transcription Activator Like effector code technology is based on novel sequence-specific DNA-binding proteins that can be designed quickly and easily to recognize virtually any sequence of interest. The application of these tools in plants will accelerate improvements in crop growth and development. The license agreement will aid Monsanto’s mission to develop high-quality products for sustainable agriculture through science-based solutions.
Rijk Zwaan researchers have been involved in developing a new breeding technique known as reverse breeding. With reverse breeding, once breeders have identified an exceptionally strong plant they can then use it to produce the parental lines necessary for developing a new variety. This provides breeders with a novel method of developing better varieties. Since the technique can also be applied to breeding most of the major food crops, this can be regarded as a breakthrough, as reflected by the coverage in Nature Genetics–the result of close collaboration between Rijk Zwaan and researchers from Wageningen University in the Netherlands and UC Davis, University of California in the United States.
According to scientists at the University of Texas in Austin, seed size is controlled by small RNA molecules inherited from a plant’s mother, a discovery that has implications for agriculture and understanding plant evolution. Jeff Chen, professor in Plant Molecular Genetics at The University of Texas, and colleague David Baulcombe at the University of Cambridge have provided the first genetic evidence that seed development is controlled by maternally inherited, small interfering RNAs, or siRNAs. These new findings will enable scientists to develop biotechnological tools for improving seed production and crop yield. The research has been published in the journal PNAS.
A United States Department of Agriculture scientist has shown researchers and plant breeders a better way to handle the massive amounts of data being generated by plant molecular studies, using an approach that should help speed up the development of improved crop varieties. By using a statistical approach known as genomic selection, scientists can capture and exploit more of the data produced by the growing number of studies focused on DNA sequences found in plant genomes. The research has been published in the April 2012 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
Established in 2006 to address the global shortage of trained plant breeders, the University of California, Davis Plant Breeding Academy is a professional certificate program that covers the fundamentals and the most recent developments in plant breeding theory and practice. Participants attend six six-day sessions at UC Davis, hearing from instructors who are internationally recognized experts in plant breeding and seed technology. The 2012 PBA class begins in September and applications are now being accepted. Several changes are being made to address the most recent development in plant breeding theory and practice, including an expanded section on molecular marker use, genome selection, non-replicated designs, GxE and more. In addition, Rita Mumm, director of the Illinois Plant Breeding Center, has been added as a core lecturer.
The National Association of Plant Breeders will hold its annual meeting August 6-8, 2012 in Indianapolis, Ind., with the theme “Sustaining Life through Plant Improvement.” The annual meeting is an opportunity for breeders and allied scientists to stay updated on recent innovations in plant science and to discuss public policy issues relevant to plant breeding. The meeting also provides an important venue for graduate students to present their research, meet with potential employers, and become acquainted with plant breeding graduate students from other universities.
The R.C. Thomas Company has launched a new audio training program to help sales reps train in the comfort of their office or home or as they drive through their sales territories. Just in time for the North American planting season, this new digital download or audio training CD, titled “Planting Customers,” is designed to give sales reps a blueprint on executing the number one customer contact of the entire year—visiting customer planters as they plant. “You have to be at the planter when your customers are planting your products, especially when those customers are planting your products for the very first time,” says Rod Osthus, president of R.C. Thomas Company. “You have to make sure they are planting your products properly in the right field, and that they understand how they will need to manage them throughout the growing season.”
Proponents of both agricultural biotechnology and organic agriculture have no choice but work together in Africa if the continent is to achieve food security, according to Clive James, founder and chair of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications. “We have to use the best of agricultural biotechnology and organic agricultural technology and create effective synergies to ensure that we stand up to the task of feeding Africa’s rapidly growing population, projected to hit 1.9 billion by 2050. Conventional agriculture will not do this alone,” said James. “African countries like Kenya, which is planning to commercialize its first GM crop by 2014 could emulate the example already being set by Brazil which is harnessing the best of both agricultural biotechnology and organic agriculture to feed its huge population.”