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People News

Verdesian Life Sciences adds Marc Treurniet to the company’s plant health and nutrition management team as vice-president of business development. In this new role, Treurniet will be responsible for providing overall strategic vision, planning and leadership to grow and develop global partnerships and key industry relationships. In doing so, he will identify and leverage new opportunities and multinational collaborative business development initiatives focused on the long-term growth of Verdesian technologies. Prior to joining the Verdesian team, Treurniet was an integral business development leader at companies including Syngenta and DuPont, working in agricultural markets globally. He has a proven track record of anticipating and addressing customer needs and growth expectations. Treurniet will begin work with Verdesian immediately, and will be based at the company’s headquarters in Cary, North Carolina, United States.

DLF announces the hiring of Søren Ustrup as business director, southern hemisphere. In this position, he will be responsible for promoting and developing the DLF business platform in that part of the world. Prior to joining DLF, Ustrup led the Arla Foods Ingredients’ business in Mexico. Since 2001, he has been in charge of major commercial activities for Arla Foods Ingredients in the Middle East and South America, including sales, marketing, business development and product management.

Syngenta announces the appointment of J. Erik Fyrwald, currently president and CEO of the US chemistry distribution company Univar Inc., as chief executive officer, effective June 1. Erik succeeds John Ramsay, who has been interim CEO since November 2015. Fyrwald spent 27 years at DuPont where he held positions of increasing responsibility in technology, manufacturing, sales and marketing, strategic planning, and regional and global business unit leadership, including four years in Asia.

Arcadia Biosciences announces Raj Ketkar has joined the company as president and chief executive officer. Ketkar will replace Roger Salameh, who has served as interim president and CEO since February. Salameh will take on a new role as chief operating officer for the company, reporting to the CEO. Ketkar brings nearly 35 years of agriculture and agricultural biotechnology business experience in the United States and internationally. He spent more than 30 years in a variety of business, operations, and strategy roles for Monsanto Company, during which time he demonstrated successes in agricultural trait commercialisation and growth around the globe. As managing director of the Mahyco-Monsanto joint venture in India, Ketkar led the launch of Bt cotton, the country’s first agricultural biotechnology product. In addition to his operations and trait commercialisation experience, Ketkar was also director of biotechnology strategy for Monsanto, where he led the development of the company’s trait stacking technology.

The International Seed Federation has wrapped up the business portion of its 2016 World Seed Congress with a general assembly where delegates voted in a new president—Jean-Christophe Gouache of Limagrain. Gouache will serve a two-year term as president. In this role, he will be responsible for implementing the ISF 2020 plan, which focuses on innovation, the movement of seed, intellectual property rights, biodiversity and engagement. A member of the seed industry for 35 years, Gouache is familiar with the issues of the seed industry. Within Limagrain, he is vice-president for international affairs and chairman of the Scientific Affairs Committee. Additionally, he has served on the Executive Committee since 1998.

Business News

SynTech Research France has acquired land and buildings to establish a GEP and GLP Seeds Technical Centre at L’Isle Jourdain, in the intensive agricultural area around Toulouse in southwest France. The site contains laboratories for activities such as seed preparation for trials, plus chemical storage and freezer chamber facilities. It also includes office space. In addition, in response to increasing requests from clients for GEP and GLP (residues and ecotox) trials in the field, greenhouse and protected crops, SynTech has expanded its main research station in France and EU headquarters’ site near Macon, Burgundy.

BASF opens a new R&D centre at the crop protection division’s headquarters in Limburgerhof, Germany. By housing two promising and well-connected research areas – biological crop protection and seed solutions – the centre will be a hub of expertise for solutions in chemistry and biology to farmers around the globe. ‘Our investment in this expanded capacity is a step forward to unlocking the agricultural potential in seeds and crops in different and untapped ways’, said Philipp Rosendorfer, vice-president of R&D functional crop care for BASF’s Crop Protection division. The research on biological solutions, which consists of naturally occurring organisms or extracts thereof, provides great opportunities to complement BASF’s chemical crop protection. Moreover, the combination between chemistry and biology generates a new range of pioneering solutions for seed treatment.

DLF, a leader in forage and turf seed, has acquired a majority shareholding in Estero S.A. based in Montevideo, Uruguay. DLF’s investment in Estero confirms the group’s strategic goal to develop a strong business platform in South America, according to a news release. DLF has acquired 60 per cent of the shares in Estero S.A., whereas Carlos Rocha and Jorge Gari, directors and founders of Estero, own the remaining 40 per cent. The company will operate as DLF Estero. ‘This investment, which is our first in South America of this kind, represents a cornerstone in our strategic ambitions for South America’, says CEO of DLF, Truels Damsgaard. ‘We have known Estero for more than 10 years as a well-managed and highly esteemed seed company. Our investment in Estero secures a platform from which we can develop our seed activities in Uruguay as well as throughout South America. Estero offers an excellent opportunity to leverage our ongoing investments in research and plant breeding even further. Our varieties developed from our global research activities are well adapted and well performing in many parts of South America’, adds Damsgaard.

Alltech has agreed to acquire Keenan, a leading farming solutions company in Ireland. Keenan, now part of the Alltech family of companies, is the 14th acquisition for Alltech globally since 2011. ‘The Keenan group has long been a friend of Alltech. This is a story about two great Irish, globally-minded companies coming together. As an Irishman, I am delighted to welcome Keenan to our family, because together we can deliver greater value to our global farming customers with a wider variety of technological solutions’, said Pearse Lyons, founder and president of Alltech. ‘Between Alltech’s primacy in science and Keenan’s manufacturing strength and technological know-how, we have a winning combination for delivering greater farm efficiency and profitability direct to our farming customers’. Alltech and Keenan have identified possible growth opportunities together, which may include nutritional technologies and feeding programs focused on feed efficiency and herd health as well as advanced ration formulation. Keenan will continue to be headquartered in Borris, County Carlow, Ireland. Together, Alltech and Keenan employ nearly 300 people in Ireland and close to 5,000 globally.

Industry News

Scientists at the John Innes Centre (JIC) and The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) have pioneered a new gene-detecting technology which, if deployed correctly, could help create a new elite variety of wheat with durable resistance to disease. Brande Wulff from JIC and colleagues from TSL developed the new technology called ‘MutRenSeq’, which accurately identifies the location of disease resistance genes in large plant genomes, and which has reduced the time it takes to clone these genes in wheat from five to 10 years, down to just two. This technology will allow scientists to quickly locate resistance genes from crops, clone them, and stack multiple resistance genes into one elite variety. In the first test run of MutRenSeq, Wulff’s team successfully isolated a well-known resistance gene, Sr33, in a fraction of the time it had previously taken to do this by conventional breeding techniques. After which, the team then cloned two important stem rust resistance genes, Sr22 and Sr45, which scientists have, until now, been unable to isolate successfully.

The first dedicated laboratory at the Centre of Excellence for Plant and Microbial Sciences (CEPAMS) has opened for business in Beijing with the arrival of its first group leader, Yang Bai. This is a major milestone in the development of CEPAMS, established between the John Innes Centre (JIC) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Bai, who joins CEPAMS from the world-renowned Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, Germany, has ambitious plans for his new laboratory and for its future impact. The Bai laboratory, housed within the CAS Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, will study the microbes associated with healthy plant growth. Bai believes a better understanding of these microbes will be essential to the development of global sustainable agriculture. He sees a bright future in which the need for artificial fertiliser is dramatically reduced and global food security is strengthened. ‘It is a great honour to be the very first CEPAMS group leader. I am looking forward to exploiting my unique position as a joint CAS-JIC faculty member to do some ground breaking science, and to further strengthen the UK-China scientific partnership. I want my new lab to meet the global challenge of food security’, Bai said.

The agricultural inoculants market is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.6 per cent from 2015 to reach a projected value of USD 437.1 million by 2020, according to a recent study released by Research and Markets. The growth of this market is driven by the increase in demand of organic fertilisers in the agricultural sector. The market is further driven by factors such as an increase in organic and environment friendly farming practices, promotion by government agencies, and an increase in demand of agricultural inoculants in emerging markets, such as Asia-Pacific. Based on types of inoculants, the agricultural inoculant market is projected to be led by the plant growth promoting microorganisms segment, followed by biocontrol agents.

DuPont Pioneer is continuing its collaboration with the Global Crop Diversity Trust to conserve and make available some of the world’s most important food crops. Citing the critical need for crop diversity at a time when populations are soaring and climate change is threatening staple crops such as maize, DuPont Pioneer has committed $250,000 to the trust, in a renewable agreement for up to four years. The funds committed to the trust will be channelled through the Crop Diversity Endowment Fund. Each year, a portion of the fund’s value is paid out to ensure conservation and maintenance of crop diversity held in seed banks around the world. The trust manages a comprehensive program of long- and short-term support for genebanks, such as the current collaboration with Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Centers, including the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture. ‘Seed banks ultimately help safeguard a global food supply, as wars and natural disasters can decimate an area’s crops’, said Jerry Flint, vice-president of industry affairs and regulatory, DuPont Pioneer. ‘DuPont Pioneer is collaborating with the crop trust to secure millions of diverse seed samples, which will be essential for breeding plants that contribute to farmers’ long-term success and feed a growing population’.

A new study by 16 researchers from a half-dozen countries, uses newly available crop models and data from ongoing large-scale field experiments has been published in the journal Nature Climate Change. ‘Most of the discussion around climate impacts focuses only on changes in temperature and precipitation’, said lead author, Delphine Deryng, an environmental scientist at Columbia University’s Center for Climate Systems Research, the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the University of Chicago’s Computation Institute. The new study looks at how rising temperatures and carbon dioxide, along with changes in rainfall and cloud cover, might combine to affect how efficiently maize, soybeans, wheat, and rice can use water and grow. It confirms that heat and water stress alone will damage yields, however, when carbon dioxide is accounted for, all four crops will use water more efficiently by 2080. Based on the current biomass of these crops, water-use efficiency would rise an average of 27 per cent in wheat, 18 per cent in soybeans, 13 per cent in maize and 10 per cent in rice. All things considered, the study projects average yields of current rainfed wheat areas (mostly located in higher latitudes including the United States, Canada and Europe), might go up by almost 10 per cent, while consumption of water would go down a corresponding amount. On the other hand, average yields of irrigated wheat, which account for much of India and China’s production, could decline by 4 per cent. Maize, according to the new projections, would still be a loser most everywhere, even with higher water efficiency—yields would go down about 8.5 per cent. The study is less conclusive on the overall effects on rice and soybean yields; half of the projections show an increase in yield and half a net decline.

Product News

Getting rid of grey discolouring in foods, such as fresh noodles, breads and refrigerated biscuits, is now possible, thanks to a new white hard wheat breeding line developed by United States Department of Agriculture scientists. Plant geneticist Bob Graybosch, at the Agricultural Research Service’s Grain, Forage, and Bioenergy Research Unit in Lincoln, Nebraska, developed a wheat that has no polyphenol oxidase—an enzyme present in all plants that causes discolouring. The enzyme causes browning in sliced apples, black spots in cut avocados and dark marks on banana peels. The new wheat line, 070R1074, was developed by crossing two Australian wheats entered into the ARS National Small Grains Collection in the 1930s. Collaborating with the University of Nebraska and Montana State University, Graybosch screened wheats in the collection for polyphenol oxidase and then mated wheats with different forms of the genes that produced this enzyme. Wheat breeding lines with very low levels of polyphenol oxidase were generated from these crosses. In their research, Graybosch and his colleagues discovered naturally occurring genetic mutations in the new wheat line, which resulted in nearly complete loss of polyphenol oxidase activity. Researchers have used the trait to improve breeding lines and could eventually incorporate it into elite lines to produce highly desirable cultivars.

The United Kingdom’s Rothamsted Research has been given the okay to go ahead with a field trial of genetically modified camelina plants on the Rothamsted Farm in 2016 and 2017. The trial is part of a research project by Rothamsted scientists. The trial will test whether GM Camelina sativa plants are able to make significant quantities of omega-3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) and astaxanthin in the seed of the plant under field conditions. Omega-3 LC-PUFAs have been shown to be beneficial for human health and contribute to protection against coronary heart diseases. The controlled experiment will be carried out at Rothamsted Research and sowing of Camelina seeds will take place in May this year. The plants will be harvested August/September 2016, and a small amount of seed will be used to analyse the oil content—the rest of the seed and plant material will be destroyed according to the consent’s conditions. The GM inspectorate of the Food and Environment Research Agency will be carrying out regular inspections.

Monsanto Company has expressed its disappointment that recent discussions with the Argentina Ministry of Agriculture and previous areas of alignment have yet to result in a mutually agreeable solution for soybean growers, the broader agriculture industry and the Government of Argentina. Therefore, as a result of its obligations to its farmer customers worldwide, who expect and deserve a level playing field, as well as the company’s owners, Monsanto is reinforcing its commitment to enforce its private contracts and intellectual property rights both inside and outside Argentina. Additionally, until such time that there is further clarity within Argentina on a predictable way to collect royalties on the value new patented soybean technologies bring, the company plans to take measures to protect its current assets and will suspend launching any future soybean technologies in the country, including Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans. ‘We were optimistic that a solution would be secured to allow the legally operating soybean technology royalty system to continue uninterrupted following recent discussions between the Ministry of Agriculture for Argentina and the soybean industry stakeholders’, said Brett Begemann, Monsanto president and chief operating officer. ‘While the Government of Argentina has acknowledged to us that they were committed to supporting a conducive environment for continued investment and further long-term development of agriculture through recognition of intellectual property rights and a recognition of private agreements, the recent actions are not consistent with that position. Both endorsing and actively supporting these basic principles are necessary to create a predictable business environment, which invites foreign investment’.

Web and App News

The Royal Society Releases Guide on GM Plants

The Royal Society has drawn a panel of scientific experts and has come up with a guide titled ‘Genetically Modified (GM) Plants: Questions and Answers’. The guide addresses 18 important questions asked by the general public about GM crops, based on the results of a survey. ‘The answers draw on a wide range of evidence and give some specific examples. In general, it is important to recognise that when the GM method is used, the crops produced should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. GM is a method, not a product in itself. Different GM crops have different characteristics, and it is impossible from a scientific point of view to make a blanket statement that all GM is good or bad’, said Venki Ramakrishnan, president of the Royal Society.

First State of the World’s Plants Report Released 

The Kew Royal Botanic Gardens has released the first annual report on the State of the World’s Plants, a baseline assessment of current knowledge on the diversity of plants on earth, the global threats these plants currently face, as well as the policies in place and their effectiveness in dealing with threats. The status of plants included in the report is based on the most updated knowledge from around the world as of 2016, and is divided into three sections: description of the world’s plants, global threats to plants, and policies and international trade. The report’s first section focuses on plant diversity on earth, noting that there are now 391,000 vascular plants known to science, of which 369,000 are flowering plants. The report also collates data indicating at least 31,000 plant species have documented use for medicines, food and materials. The report also identifies the focus of collection efforts to include plant species of critical importance to global food security and wild relatives of crops.

ASTA Launches New Website

The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) has a new website. is a vital new source for all information related to the research, development and movement of quality seed to meet the world’s demand for food, feed, fibre and fuel. ‘We are thrilled to offer this new and improved online resource to better serve our members, industry allies, policymakers and the general public who are looking for information about seed, seed improvement and the key policy issues that impact our industry’, said ASTA president and CEO Andrew LaVigne. ‘So many of the things that enhance our quality of life can be traced to a seed someone planted. From the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, to the fuel that powers our cars—it all starts with a seed. Our new website helps bring this story to life’. The website showcases ASTA’s refreshed branding and supports the association’s public-facing communications initiative to educate consumers about the connection between better seed and better life. In addition to seed improvement messages, offers information for policymakers about the key legislative and regulatory issues impacting the seed industry; industry FAQs covering plant breeding, GMOs, organics, seed treatment, and other topics; publications and resources for the media; information on upcoming industry meetings; and much more.

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