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People News

New York-based AgriCapital Corporation has announced that February 1, 2013, marks its thirtieth anniversary. “It has been one terrific ride, allowing us to witness the great changes taking place in the food system, and also to get acquainted with wonderful people from around the world,” says Rurik (R.B.) Halaby, chairman and founder of AgriCapital, which provides its services exclusively to agribusiness entities on a global basis. Today, AgriCapital works on a private, professionally-retained, advisory basis, assisting its clients in negotiating mergers and acquisitions, arranging financing, and providing consulting services. Since its inception in 1983, AgriCapital has been involved in over 500 assignments on behalf of some 400 agribusiness companies. Halaby has been active in many trade organizations, including the American Seed Trade Association, and serving for three years on the board of the American Feed Industry Association and its executive committee.

Des Moines, Iowa-based Bratney Companies, an equipment, design and construction firm for the seed and feed industries, recently announced that Peter Bratney will take over as chief executive officer. Bratney will replace his father, who will retire to his position as chairman of the company after 35 years. Peter Bratney will be the third generation of the Bratney family to lead the company since its founding in 1964.

FBSciences Inc. has promoted Terry Hanson to chief technology officer. Formerly vice president of research and development at FBSciences, Hanson has worked to expand FBSciences’ global influence as a leader in naturally-derived products and active ingredients that promote plant health. As CTO, Hanson will oversee all aspects of the company’s proprietary technology, including the product development pipeline and promising efforts to identify future generations of its exclusive plant growth regulator products.

Advanta U.S. has hired Ben Beyer to serve as its U.S. sorghum breeder. Beyer will manage all breeding activities for grain and forage sorghums. Beyer’s responsibilities will include the coordination of sorghum breeding programs, management of crops and breeding activities, maintenance and supply of breeding seed, compilation and evaluation of germplasm, development of new genetic material, and identification of marketable products.

AgriThority LLC, an integrated agricultural science consultancy and field research and development company, has announced that Giovanni Miglio, an agronomist and crop protection specialist from Bologna, Italy, has joined its staff of associates. Miglio will support field research, product development and project management functions in Europe and northern Africa, concentrating on central and eastern Europe.

Product News

XiteBio Technologies Inc. has announced the full commercial launch of XiteBio PeasRhizo, a low-volume, ready-to-use liquid pea and lentil inoculant, for spring 2013. XiteBio PeasRhizo comes as a convenient all-in-one-package ready to apply on-seed or in-furrow. XiteBio PeasRhizo enhances nodulation and maximizes pea and lentil yield and will be available to pea and lentil growers in the United States this spring.

Legacy Seeds Inc. has announced the StandLife Genetics alfalfa breeding program. The program will consist of varieties of alfalfa bred for multi-strain resistance to Aphanomyces Race 2 and also Race 3. Legacy’s unique breeding and selection process promises to lead to the release of multiple varieties that have outstanding agronomic characteristics along with exceptionally high resistance to multiple strains of Aphanomyces. Aphanomyces symptoms include stunting and yellowing of alfalfa plants and, in severe cases, reduced stand. Legacy L449APH2 is the first release from this breeding and selection process.

Business News

Enza Zaden’s new subsidiary, Enza Zaden India Private Ltd., has officially been registered in Pune, Maharashtra state, which is one of the most important vegetable production regions in India. The new company will focus on the development of new hybrid vegetable varieties attuned to local growers in India providing improved yields and better disease resistance.

Vilmorin has acquired Delhi, India-based Century Seeds, a privately-held company that specializes in vegetable seeds and owns a wide range of varieties derived from its high-quality breeding programs for more than 10 species, including cauliflower, pepper, cabbage, tomato and other vegetables. Century Seeds will join the HM-Clause business unit and, locally, its subsidiary Clause India, based in Hyderabad in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Griffin Greenhouse Supplies Inc., a U.S.-based supplier of greenhouse and nursery materials, has signed an agreement to acquire the Syngenta Horticultural Services distribution and brokerage business. The transaction will include the transfer of SHS assets and employees as well as distribution and brokerage capabilities located in the United States. Griffin has also signed a long-term agreement to distribute and broker Syngenta Flowers genetics throughout the United States.

Vilmorin SA is opening a subsidiary in Moscow as part of its development strategy. OOO Vilmorin will market beets, onions, carrots and tomatoes as well as varieties of cabbage and watermelon from the Mikado Kyowa Seeds line. Russia represents tremendous growth potential for Vilmorin SA and the company expects revenues of €2 million from its OOO Vilmorin subsidiary in the first year of operation.

DuPont Pioneer is investing more than US$40 million in the construction of a seed production facility in Stasi, Dykanka region, Poltava oblast, Ukraine. Construction is underway at the facility, which will be operational in time for the 2013 season, supporting the increased customer demand for Pioneer brand maize, sunflower and oilseed rape hybrids in Ukraine. Upon completion, the production facility, together with the logistics facility built in Stasi last year, will employ approximately 60 full-time employees to support the warehousing, distribution and production of about 500,000 units of Pioneer brand maize and sunflower hybrids.

BASF has completed the acquisition of Becker Underwood for US$1.02 billion. In the coming months, a detailed integration plan will be developed. Most Becker Underwood businesses will join the newly-established global business unit Functional Crop Care as part of BASF’s Crop Protection division. Within this new unit, BASF will merge its existing research, development and marketing activities in the areas of seed treatment, biological crop protection and plant health, as well as water and resource management, with those of Becker Underwood.

Novozymes has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Natural Industries Inc. based in Houston, Texas. Natural Industries is a bioagricultural player with annual revenues of US$5 million. Biological technologies are natural solutions with multiple modes of action, which are used to improve plant health and growth or combat diseases across various broad acre crops, such as corn and soy, and high-value crops, such as salads, strawberries and nuts.

Rijk Zwaan has officially opened two new facilities at its site in El Mamí, Spain. The new cell biology lab and completely renovated and extended phytopathology lab will help Rijk Zwaan to continue to create the top-class vegetable varieties of the future. “Our new cell biology lab will speed up the development of parent lines for new varieties. In the new phytopathology lab, our team will identify varieties with better resistances to continue to meet our customers’ needs,” says Kees Reinink, managing director of research and development at Rijk Zwaan.

Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings LLC has ann
ounced that its subsidiary, Jimmy Sanders Inc., has acquired G&H Seed Company Inc. and its related company Liq-Quick Fertilizer Co. Inc. Based in Crowley, La., G&H has seven retail outlets and a strong wholesale business servicing Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi and Louisiana. “We are excited about G&H Seed,” says Kenny Cordell, chief executive officer of Pinnacle. “This acquisition, along with JSI, creates a significant platform to launch Pinnacle and achieve national coverage.”

Migl Feed and Grain, an agricultural supply company located in Hallettsville, Texas, will join the J. R. Simplot Company’s Grower Solutions network. “We felt that Simplot Grower Solutions was the best fit for our community, our employees and our customers. Their commitment to agriculture is well known throughout the industry,” says Frank Migl, owner of Migl Feed and Grain. Migl staff will remain focused on providing customers with a full line of crop nutrients, crop protection, seed, specialty products and agricultural technology.

The Two Blades Foundation has completed a non-exclusive license agreement with DuPont Pioneer for access to 2Blades’ TAL Code technology for commercial uses in certain crop plants. The Transcription Activator Like effector code enables a number of highly useful tools to target specific loci in a genome and modulate the expression of genes. 2Blades holds exclusive rights for commercial uses of the technology in plants and has undertaken a broad licensing program. The license to TAL Code technology enhances DuPont Pioneer’s ability to develop advanced plant genetics. DuPont Pioneer will grant 2Blades access to its improvements to the TAL Code technology for use in 2Blades’ humanitarian efforts to support subsistence farming.

Industry News

After the completion of the 2012 trialing season, All-America Selections has announced the second batch of winners for the 2013 season. The four winners include a geranium, Pinto Premium White to Rose; a melon, Melemon; a tomato, Cherry Jasper; and a watermelon, Harvest Moon. These four winners are new introductions for the 2013 gardening season. Each of these winners was trialed next to two or three other similar varieties that are currently on the market. With this announcement, these varietie s become available for immediate sale.

Syngenta continues to take significant strides in the wheat breeding sector, using innovative technology platforms—like genetic markers and doubled haploid technology—as new means of trait discovery. Syngenta has ramped up its wheat breeding program by increasing its efforts to release commercially-available hybrid wheat varieties in North America. “We’re applying the same principles we used in successfully developing hybrid barley for Europe to develop hybrid wheat varieties for North America,” says Rollie Sears, senior science and technology fellow at Syngenta. “Our goal is to release the hybrid wheat varieties to growers by the end of the decade.”

A consortium of 20 research groups, including Wageningen UR Plant Breeding, part of Wageningen UR, has mapped the entire genome of the button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus. This represents a major step forward for research into sustainable mushroom production and health-promoting substances in mushrooms. “The unraveled genome is invaluable in breeding new mushroom varieties for various purposes,” says Anton Sonnenberg, scientist at Wageningen UR Plant Breeding. The scientists have published their findings in the scientific journal PNAS.

An international team led by Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences, BGI, and other institutes has completed the genomic sequence of watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) and the resequencing of 20 watermelon accessions. The genomic data presented in this study will shape future efforts on watermelon genetics and evolutionary research, and also provide an invaluable resource for other plant research and crop genetic improvement. The availability of a reference genome for a crop is extremely important in the deeper understanding of its molecular breeding and evolutionary history. The results have been published online in the journal Nature Genetics.

Representatives from governmental and non-governmental organizations across the world have agreed to establish a new multinational initiative—the Wheat Yield Network. The WYN, which has been established within the framework of the G20-sponsored Wheat Initiative, will support research and development activities to raise global wheat yields and develop new varieties adapted to different geographical regions. The WYN is a long-term endeavor and aims to raise the yield potential of wheat through sustainable approaches by up to 50 percent over the next 20 years. Over the first five years the partners are planning to invest US$50 to $75 million.

Scientists have unlocked key components of the genetic code of one of the world’s most important crops. The first analysis of the complex and exceptionally large bread wheat genome has been published in the journal Nature and is a major breakthrough in breeding wheat varieties that are more productive and better able to cope with disease, drought and other stresses that cause crop losses. The identification of around 96,000 wheat genes, and insights into the links between them, lays strong foundations for accelerating wheat improvement through advanced molecular breeding and genetic engineering. The research contributes to directly improving food security by facilitating new approaches to wheat crop improvement that will accelerate the production of new wheat varieties and stimulate new research.