An in-depth overview on the global seed industry. From hybrid rice breeding in China to a successful international conference in Brussels.

Status CHINAworldstatus1_jan2013
China is a world leader in terms of output and yield ranking in high-yield hybrid rice breeding and planting. Chinese researchers have made great achievements in the fields of functional genomics and plant molecular breeding. More hybrid rice varieties are expected to be cultivated in the near future, which rely on the discovery and application of genes associated with the control of important traits, such as yield, grain quality, and resistance or tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress.

Molecular design breeding is playing an increasingly important role in rice variety improvement. Li Jiayang, director of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, believes that molecular design breeding has stepped toward genome-assisted selection from molecular marker-assisted selection. Increasingly, bioinformatic methods will be widely applied in the discovery and use of functional genes and the aggregation of multiple genes in rice breeding.

China has made great efforts to develop “super” hybrid rice varieties with significantly higher yield than conventional varieties. Led by Yuan Longping, known as the “father of hybrid rice,” Chinese rice breeders have made major breakthroughs in boosting the yield of super rice hybrids.

For example, in September of 2011, “Y Liangyou 2,” a two-line hybrid rice variety bred by Hunan Hybrid Rice Research Center, achieved an average yield of 13,899 kilograms per hectare in a large-area yield test in China’s Hunan Province, resulting in a new yield record in hybrid rice planting. Longping believes super hybrid rice yields could rise to 15,000 kg/ha by 2015. As of 2011, hybrid rice accounts for around 55 percent of the total area planted to rice.

China’s hybrid rice industry has promoted the formation of several hybrid rice companies, such as Yuan Longping High-Tech Agriculture Co. Ltd., Hefei Fengle Seed Co. Ltd., Grand Agriseeds Technology Inc. and Winall Hi-Tech Seed Co. Ltd.

China has also gradually increased the export of hybrid rice seed and enhanced foreign aid in hybrid rice technology in recent years. Additionally, domestic hybrid rice companies intend to develop and explore overseas markets. As an example of the export value of hybrid rice seed, Winall Hi-Tech and Grand Agriseeds generated year-on-year growth of 91.23 percent and 88.49 percent in the first quarter of 2012, respectively. Longping High-Tech has established research and development centers or subsidiaries in several Southeast Asian, South Asian and West African countries, such as Indonesia, the Philippines and Nigeria.

—CCM International

Status ESA
The European Seed Association held its annual meeting and the European Seed Trade meeting from October 14 to 17, 2012, at the Sheraton Hotel in Brussels, Belgium.

With a record attendance of 806 registered participants from 42 countries around the world, including Argentina, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States, the ESA Annual Meeting has established itself as a key event in the seed world.

During the conference, ESA also offered associate companies the opportunity to present their activities at special exhibition booths to facilitate direct enquiries on technical equipment around mechanical components, grain processing technologies or plant breeding software.

Next to the crop specific meetings of the ESA sections, an important part of the conference is its European Seed Trade Meeting. More than 60 seed companies met for three days of intensive business talks.

ESA’s core policy topics were discussed during the section meetings. On average, section meetings were attended by around 100 participants from 18 different countries, which added a specific international dimension to the EU debate.

Key discussions focused on seed marketing legislation (currently under revision), new breeding techniques and the European Seed Treatment Assurance scheme. With its presentation, a two-year project, led by ESA and the Working Group on Seed Treatment, came successfully to an end!

During this time, the working group established a uniform European standard for quality seed treatment, developed guidelines to help independent auditors in their verification of compliance of the seed treatment sites, and created a protected logo that will make compliance visible to all users, regulatory bodies and numerous other technical documents.

Overall, participants enjoyed the quality of the various discussions, thanks to important keynote speakers such as David Baulcombe of the University of Cambridge, U.K., and Gerd Sonnleitner, president of the Committee of Professional Agricultural Organizations, the European Farmers Union, who called upon an enhanced and more transparent dialogue between farmers and breeders. Further debate on these important issues was led by Hans Martens, executive director of the European Policy Centre.

ESA thanks all participants and guests for their attendance and enthusiasm, which made this event a highly successful annual meeting. The next annual meeting will be held in Warsaw, Poland, from October 13 to 16, 2013.

—European Seed Association

Philippine Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and Robert Zeigler, director general of the International Rice Research Institute, have signed an agreement to help Filipino rice farmers produce more rice under the Philippines’ Food Staples Sufficiency Program. The FSSP is intended to promote the country’s self-sufficiency in rice and other food staple production by 2013, the National Year of Rice.

“This is an opportune time to renew our partnership with IRRI, which has been a strong ally and supporter since 1960, as we are nearing our goal of rice sufficiency,” said Alcala at the signing of the memorandum of agreement.

Backed with full support from the Department of Agriculture, the five-year agreement, “Sustaining Rice Self-Sufficiency and Food Security in the Philippines,” outlines areas of collaboration to support, extend and fast-track the delivery of the FSSP.

The agreement includes producing and distributing high-quality and improved rice seeds; developing varieties that are able to withstand salinity, flooding and drought; using geographic information systems to monitor rice crops; and exploring new and modern farming systems or technologies that will help expand current areas of production. There are also plans for the development and dissemination of skills training for extension and field workers.

According to Zeigler, the best IRRI science has been freely available to public and private Philippine stakeholders since the institute was established in the country in 1960. Through the signing of the agreement, IRRI and the Department of Agriculture have renewed their commitment to work together toward reducing poverty and hunger, improving the health of both farmers and consumers, and ensuring food and environmental sustainability in the Philippines.

The MOA was signed at the Agribusiness Development Center in Quezon City. Immediately after its signing, the Department of Agriculture, the Philippine Rice Research Institute and IRRI began a series of planning and budget workshops on its implementation. The resulting budget is expected to be significantly larger than that of previous agreements.

—International Rice Research Institute