Bayer’s Investment in Seeds Innovation

bayer-aif14-kneenBayer CropScience is showing its dedication to innovation several ways, starting with moving the company’s global seeds headquarters to the Research Triangle Park (RTP) in North Carolina.

“This is something that reflects our presence in the market and desire to be close to the market,” explained Geoff Kneen, Bayer CropScience’s vice president, head of strategic initiatives and RTP operations, during an interview with Cindy at the Ag Issues Forum in San Antonio. “The Americas are really the biggest market for the genetically modified seeds that we produce.”

Globally, he said they have opened several breeding stations, and recently bought a soybean breeding station in Argentina. They’re also working on developing new varieties of wheat, a crop he admits has not gotten as much technology attention as its corn and soybean cousins.

In addition to these innovations in seed technology, Geoff said they are working on educating the public about the safety and benefits of the GMO seeds they produce.

“A lot of people don’t understand the technology, and if they don’t understand it, they naturally fear it as bad, and we have to put that right,” pointing out that GMOs help growers, as well as putting more and a higher quality level of food on tables. His company has also joined a coalition of ag interests and set up a website,, to have an open dialogue on the hardest questions and provide the truth. “We encourage really difficult questions, and you can read all those answers. They’re there for peer review.”

Listen to Cindy’s interview with Geoff here: Interview with Geoff Kneen, Bayer CropScience

bayer-issues-button2014 Bayer CropScience Ag Issues Forum Photos

Seed Treatment Stewardship Promoted at Classic

ASTA Seed Treatment GuideWe first heard about “The Guide to Seed Treatment Stewardship” last year at Commodity Classic.

The second phase roll out of the guide – produced by the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) in collaboration with organizations like the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association and American Farm Bureau – began this year and we heard more about it from ASTA VP for Government and Regulatory Affairs Jane DeMarchi.

classic14-asta-jane“The Guide to Seed Treatment Stewardship was created to touch all aspects of seed applied technology,” said Jane. “Our goal is to emphasize stewardship practices across crops and treatment segments and to minimize the risk of seed dust exposure to pollinators.”

Jane says they have developed videos about seed treatment stewardship and began taking them on the road this year to state and national corn, soybean and farm bureau meetings, and she says awareness of pollinator issues is growing among farmers across the country.

Learn more here: Press conference with Jane DeMarchi, ASTA

2014 Commodity Classic Photos

New Seed World Editor

classic14-julie-dCongrats to Julie Deering (née Douglas) who has been named new editor of Seed World.

We just saw Julie last week at the Commodity Classic and Bayer CropScience Ag Issues Forum, where she was busily gathering content to use in upcoming Seed World issues. This probably means we will get to see her again at the American Seed Trade Association annual meeting and seed expo this year. That’s where we first made her acquaintance, before Mike Deering married her and moved her to Missouri where he is head of the state cattlemen’s association.

Julie is thrilled to join the Seed World team. “The seed industry is at the heart of innovation, making better use of technology and data,” she says. “There’s an enormous challenge that looms over the seed industry, but there’s never been a more exciting time to be a part of the industry.”

Her new job will be to lead the editorial direction and provide the execution that is required to maintain the publication’s reputation as the leading source of information for the global seed industry. She previously served as managing editor for Top Producer and director of communications for the American Seed Trade Association.

Bayer Develops Seed Treatment for SDS

bayer-ilevoDuring the Bayer CropScience Ag Issues Forum and Commodity Classic last week, Bayer was pleased to announced they have applied for EPA registration of ILeVO, the first seed treatment developed to address Soybean Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS).

“We’re anticipating federal registration fourth quarter of 2014 for planting in 2015,” said Seed Treatments Product Manager Dave Byrum.

classic14-bayer-riggs-byrumJennifer Riggs, Bayer SeedGrowth product development manager, says people think of SDS as a late season disease, but they have found that is not true. “The infection of the fungus into the plant happens at the seedling stage,” she explains. “So ILeVO does a very good job of protecting that very critical zone from the fungus.”

Dave and Jennifer talked about this exciting new development during a press conference, and Chuck interviewed both of them during the Ag Issues Forum. Take your pick – or take them both!

Interview with Dave Byrum and Jennifer Riggs, Bayer CropScience Bayer CropScience ILeVO press conference

2014 Bayer CropScience Ag Issues Forum Photos

BASF Helps Growers Plan for Success

classic14-basf-ajNobody in business plans for failure and farmers are no different.

“We have to plan for success,” says BASF Technical Crop Production Specialist AJ Woodyard. “We have to take that mindset again this year of looking at what is my plan for success this growing season and how am I going to implement that strategy to best maximize yield on my farm.”

During the BASF Science Behind the Advanced Acre event prior to Commodity Classic last week, AJ talked about how higher yields will be more important to growers this year than ever before. “Prices aren’t where they have been so getting the most return from a bushel standpoint is going to be very important,” he said.

AJ talked about BASF’s advanced weed control options, advanced plant health, and the economics of seed treatments. “When we look at the economics and the return on seed treatments, we find that with today’s commodity prices and at various yield levels, there’s likely a nine out of ten chance that seed treatment is going to pay for itself. That’s pretty good odds,” he said.

Listen to my interview with AJ here: Interview with AJ Woodyard, BASF

Here more from AJ’s presentation here: AJ Woodyard, BASF Science Behind presentation

BASF at the 2014 Commodity Classic Photos

ASTA Takes Seed Theft Seriously

asta-logoAs the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) was concluding its annual seed research conference and trade show in Chicago last week, word came that arrests had been made in two separate conspiracies to steal seed and trade secrets of U.S. companies.

ASTA president and CEO Andy LaVigne says they were pleased that the U.S. government took swift action on a very serious offense. “It’s like stealing anyone’s intellectual property,” said LaVigne. “This is a product or seed varieties and technology that companies have put many years into research and development, getting it approved through the regulatory system and bringing it into the market for use by farmers.”

LaVigne stresses that while the suspects in the cases are Chinese nationals, the U.S. has a good relationship with the country of China. “Our understanding at this point in time is this is one company looking at doing this that has Chinese backing, not the government, not other companies that we have been dealing with,” he said. “We are thinking this is just a single incident.” Interview with ASTA president and CEO Andy LaVigne

Arrests were made in two different cases last week. A Chinese national working for the Beijing Dabeinong Technology Group Company was charged with allegedly stealing inbred corn seed from production fields in Iowa and Illinois. In the second case, two Chinese scientists were arrested in Kansas after an incident in August when customs officials found stolen seeds in the luggage of Chinese delegation members who had visited the United States.

BASF Advanced Seed Enhancement is Global

basf-alysonAt the ASTA CSS 2013 and Seed Expo last week, we heard about the BASF portfolio of Advanced Seed Enhancements including inoculants, colorants, and biological and chemical seed treatments. Much of this new portfolio comes from the BASF acquisition of Becker Underwood in late 2012, according to Alyson Emanuel, Vice President of Global Business Management for BASF Functional Crop Care.

“We were here (at ASTA CSS) just a year ago when we had just closed the deal and the last year we’ve been very busy working on our portfolio in seed solutions bringing together the BASF side of the house and the Becker Underwood side of the house,” said Alyson.

She explains that BASF’s exclusive BioStacked® technology has enabled them to combine inoculants and biofungicides, polymers and colorants designed for specific crops. “It provides better rooting architecture, enhances plant health, nutrient uptake, disease protection – it’s a very interesting technology that we’re just beginning to see the benefits of,” Alyson said.

BASF is launching the technology in both North and South America and they plan to bring it into Europe as well. “The great thing about the BioStacked technology is that it can be very customized to the particular environment and the needs of the farmers in the area,” Alyson said

Learn more in this interview: Interview with Alyson Emanuel, BASF Functional Crop Care

Nufarm Introduces Nuseed

Tom KrollDuring Nufarm’s recent farm media tour, the company highlighted Nuseed, a branch off the parent company.

Chuck and Jody Heemstra, Red River Farm Network, met up with Tom Kroll, Product Manager in Seed Treatment for Nufarm. Tom works with products from the earliest idea of them all the way to market and helps with the technical aspects too.

“Nuseed is kind of the umbrella within the bigger umbrella, which is Nufarm. Nufarm is the parent company and within that we have an organization called Nuseed. Nuseed is focused on the gene technology of sorghum, sunflower and canola. We also have the seed treatment component which is a sister to the genetics.”

Nufarm describes themselves as a second-tier company. Tom says they won’t be bringing on new chemistries like their bigger competitors, but their focus is taking existing chemistries and building from them and giving growers the best value from a product.

Tom goes on to explain what areas of seed treatment they are working on, their custom blending and what we can see from them in the very near future.

You can listen to Chuck and Jody’s interview with Tom here: Interview with Tom Kroll

2013 Nufarm North America Headquarters Photo Album

International Seed Federation Update

asta-css-isfIllinois Foundation Seeds president Tim Johnson is currently serving as the elected president of the International Seed Federation (ISF), which represents seed industry interests on a global level. Tim gave an ISF update during the first general session of the ASTA 2013 CSS last week, first pointing out to attendees that as members of the American Seed Trade Association they are all members of the ISF.

“The International Seed Federation was a merger of two federations in 2002,” he explained. “It used to be the Federation of International Seedsmen and we needed to change that because we are now seed people.” The other organization represented global breeders. “We represent over 238 members in 73 countries, which is 96 percent of all international seed traded globally.”

Tim talked about activities of the ISF this past year, including the 2013 Congress that was held in Athens, Greece and plans for the upcoming Congress to be held May 26-28, 2014 in Beijing. International Seed Federation update from president Tim Johnson

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

AgAccord is Complete

asta-berniceThe big topic at last year’s ASTA CSS 2013 and Seed Expo was The Accord, which is an industry agreement developed to provide a mechanism to transition from proprietary biotech events to off-patent or generic biotech events. Just prior to the expo this year, the second part of what is now called the AgAccord was opened up for signature. That is the Data Use and Compensation Agreement or DUCA, as ASTA Vice President for Science and International Affairs Bernice Slutsky explains.

“Last year when we were talking about the accord we had just completed the first agreement, the Generic Event Marketability and Access Agreement or the GEMMA, and we have now completed the second agreement – the DUCA…so the AgAccord is now complete,” said Bernice.

The DUCA will become operational once six parties sign, three that hold proprietary regulatory property or have petitioned the USDA to deregulate an event, and three parties that do not hold proprietary regulatory property, such as a seed company or national farm organization. The AgAccord was triggered in anticipation of the very first biotech event scheduled to go off patent at the end of 2014, which is Monsanto’s Roundup Ready trait.

This is a pretty complex issue, but very important for the transition of biotech events to the off-patent market, particularly when it comes to international trade. “We’re really being proactive,” said Bernice. “These are highly regulated products and that regulation has an impact on our exports.” Interview with Bernice Slutsky, ASTA

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

ASTA Chair Looks Ahead to Annual Meeting

css-13-craigFinally caught up with American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) chairman Craig Newman as I was heading out of the hotel to go home Friday morning so I caught a quick interview.

Craig says the expo this year was great with a record number of exhibitors. “In fact, it’s just bulging,” he said. “Sometimes we think that the industry’s consolidating when actually innovation is expanding it.”

Craig is president and CEO of AgReliant Genetics, based in Indiana, so he is pleased to be hosting ASTA’s 131st annual convention in his home state next year. “The meeting will be in Indianapolis and we’ve added a lot of new things,” said Craig. “First is the new ASTA Purdue Leadership Academy which is pre-conference, two and a half days of specialized seed industry training.”

The meeting will be June 11-14, 2014 and Craig encourages anyone with an interest in the seed industry to come and “feel the need for seed!” Interview with ASTA chair Craig Newman

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

ASTA CSS Session Focuses on Seed Treatment

The second general session of ASTA CSS and Seed Expo focused on seed treatments and pollinator health.

11341722875_4d60858bce_qLaurie Adams with Pollinator Partnership discussed the Corn Dust Research Consortium, with a focus on some of the reasons we are seeing a loss in pollinators. With competing pressures for productivity in agriculture and for protection of pollinators like bees and butterflies, the actions of the seed trade have a significant impact on the future. Laurie discussed how sustainability for both high-yield landscapes and ecologically nurturing habitat can be achieved.
You can listen to Laurie’s remarks here Laurie Adams, Pollinator Partnership

11343001153_023dda3fcd_qDr. Iain Kelly with Bayer CropScience focused on seed treatment and pollinator health. Declining pollinator health is currently attracting considerable scientific and media interest. A recent report summarizing the conclusions of USDA’s National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health outlined the various factors contributing to the decline, noting that the parasitic Varroa mite remains the single most detrimental pest of honey bees. Kelly discussed efforts by industry stakeholders to improve bee health, including assessing and minimizing any potential risks from seed treatment.
You can listen to Dr. Kelly’s remarks here Dr. Iain Kelly, Bayer CropScience

11342852675_57d146a25d_q Jane DeMarchi with ASTA discussed the new Guide to Seed Treatment Stewardship being rolled out in 2014. The Guide has been enthusiastically endorsed by the National Corn Growers Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the American Soybean Association, and has been shared with both EPA and USDA. As seed treatment technology advances, more resources are developed and the needs of the seed and crop production value chain evolve, Jane says the Guide will be updated to ensure the latest in seed treatment management information for seed companies and growers.

You can listen to Jane’s remarks as well as audio for the video they are using to promote Guide to Seed Treatment Stewardship here: Jane DeMarchi, ASTA

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

BASF’s Advanced Seed Enhancement Platform

css-13-basf-justinAt the ASTA CSS 2013 and Seed Expo this week we had the opportunity to learn more about BASF’s Advanced Seed Enhancement platform which includes a number of important products that can accomplish increased emergence and help farmers get more from every acre.

Those products include Vault HP plus Integral for soybeans, Stamina F3 for cereals, and Flo Rite Plantability Polymers, according to BASF Technical Market Specialist Justin Clark. Listen to him talk about each one here: Interview with Justin Clark, BASF

Justin also gave us a very simple visual demonstration to show the difference that Flo Rite Plantability Polymers make with seed – check it out.

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

BASF on Cutting Edge of Seed Enhancement

asta-css-basf-neilThe just released CropLife Foundation report shows just how important seed treatment is becoming for agricultural production and today at the ASTA CSS 2013 and Seed Expo we heard how BASF Crop Protection has moved to the forefront of seed enhancement to help farmers get the most out of every acre.

“Seed enhancement is one of the fastest growing segments of the industry,” said Neil Bentley, director of marketing for the BASF U.S. Crop Protection business. “Seed is one of the most expensive investments that a farmer makes each year. We want to make sure that’s maximized.”

Thanks to the integration of Becker Underwood into the BASF family over the past year, BASF’s Advanced Seed Enhancement platform includes a number of important products that can accomplish increased emergence and help farmers get more from every acre. “Those products include Vault HP + Integral in soybeans and Stamina F3 for cereals,” said Neil. “We also have Flo Rite Plantability Polymers, a very interesting technology that can help a grower maximize the amount of active ingredient that stays on a seed and also helps seeds flow better through planters.”

Neil pointed out that just a 5% stand loss on 3,000 acres of soybeans could cost a farmer nearly $85,000 in a growing season so anything they can do to help growers minimize that loss means more from every acre.

Listen to my interview with Neil here: Interview with Neil Bentley, BASF

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

Meet ASTA’s New Director of Communications

J Walters PhotoAfter managing communications for the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) for the last five years, Janice Walters is now the lead communicator for the seed industry.

As the brand new director of communications for the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), Janice is working closely with President and CEO Andy LaVigne to promote the seed industry’s regulatory and legislative positions, as well as its many initiatives to support seed education and research, careers in the seed industry, and the quality management, movement and stewardship of seed.

During ASTA CSS 2013 and Seed Expo, I caught up with Janice to talk about her new role and, more personally, her two bundles of joy at home. Janice is originally from Galesburg, Illinois but she and her husband now live outside of Washington, D.C. with their 8-month-old twin boys.

Listen to my interview with Janice here: Interview with Janice Walters, ASTA

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

ASTA CSS and Seed Expo Underway

asta-css-sign Over 2,500 seed industry professionals are in the Windy City this week to attend the American Seed Trade Association’s Annual Corn & Sorghum and Soybean Seed Research Conference and Seed Expo.

There are a record number of exhibitors demonstrating the seed industry’s latest technologies, products and services. A New Product Showcase on Thursday will feature products introduced to the industry within the past six months. International participation in the CSS includes delegations from many South American countries, China, Canada and numerous other countries.

The CSS opening session on Thursday will feature renowned agriculture economist Dan Basse and his predictions for the 2014 global crop market; Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, Chief USDA Scientist, discussing the key issues impacting agriculture research; and Dr. Junyi Gai from Nanjing Ag University discussing the global outlook for the seed industry.

This meeting is truly “where seed business gets done” with committee meetings focusing on legal and legislative issues, biotech and organic seed concerns, phytosanitary regulations, emerging diseases and other issues affecting seed production and movement worldwide. If you are in the seed business and not here – the question is why?

Check out the photo album here: 2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

Cover Crop Seed Growth

asta-risa-cssWith cover crops becoming increasingly important for farmers to provide nutrients and protect against erosion, different varieties are being developed to address specific needs.

At the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) CSS & Seed Expo in Chicago, I learned more about that from Risa DeMasi with Grassland Oregon, who is second vice chairman of ASTA. “Our company is very involved with cover crop research…working on sustainability issues for the soil and for the farmer,” she said. “Our mission is to provide novel solutions for growing concerns of the growers today.”

Risa says there are a number of different types of cover crops that are best for achieving specific goals, whether that is addressing soil erosion, soil compaction, water or nutrient management, wildlife habitat – or all of the above. One variety they are particularly excited about is Balansa clover. “It provides a great amount of nitrogen,” said Risa. “It also creates very deep channels in the soil, so you get water availability when you want it and drainage when you don’t. It’s creating a lot of top growth so you get weed suppression. It also can create an environment of habitat for certain wildlife.”

ASTA is becoming more involved in the educational aspect of cover crops for all stakeholders, from policy makers in Washington to the farmers on the ground. Learn more in this interview: Interview with Risa DeMasi, Grassland Oregon

2013 ASTA CSS & Seed Expo Photo Album

Seed Treatment in Modern Crop Production

CropLife FoundationAt the end of last week Croplife Foundation released a new report, “The Role of Seed Treatment in Modern U.S. Crop Production.” The report contains extensive information on the benefits of seed treatment for growers, consumers and the environment. Some of the topics covered in the report include:

Grower benefits – Seed treatments offer effective control against early-season pests and diseases, and reduce the need for additional rescue treatments or replanting.

Added value to seed – Seed treatment protects and contributes value to a large proportion of seed that has been enhanced through agricultural technologies.

Positive environmental impacts – Crop protection products applied as seed treatments can reduce soil surface exposure by up to 90 percent compared to other application methods.

Economic impacts – Through increased protection and greater crop yields, seed treatments helped contribute to nearly $80 billion worth of value to American corn growers in 2011.

The CropLife Foundation held a press conference with these speakers:

Jay Vroom, chair, CropLife Foundation board of directors and president and CEO, CropLife America; Andrew W. LaVigne, president and CEO, American Seed Trade Association; Tim Burrack, Iowa farmer and vice chair of the board of directors, Truth about Trade & Technology.

You can download or listen to the press conference to learn more here: CropLife Foundation Press Conference

ASTA CSS 2013 Preview

nafb13-asta-andyWhen I talked with American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) CEO Andy LaVinge at the National Association of Farm Broadcasting meeting the 2013 CSS & Seed Expo was still three weeks away, but all of the sudden it’s next week already!

I am heading to Chicago for the 68th annual Corn and Sorghum Seed Research Conference/43rd Soybean Seed Research Conference on Monday where I will be joined by Leah Guffey to bring you coverage of this important meeting “where seed business gets done.” Thanks to ASTA and BASF Crop Protection for sponsoring our coverage. BASF will be will be discussing where their seed solutions profile is today, since they officially announced their plans with Becker Underwood at this meeting last year.

The new portfolio is the result of combined breakthroughs from the BASF global research and development platform and Becker Underwood’s biological seed treatment, seed treatment colors and polymer technologies.

Andy says there will be a big focus at the meeting this year on seed treatment stewardship and a new guide available under the industry banner of Seed Treatment Matters. “We got together with CropLife America, and the major grower groups – National Corn Growers, American Soybean, National Cotton Council and American Farm Bureau Federation – to talk about the adoption of new technologies we’ve seen on seed,” he said. “We want to make sure that technology is properly stewarded.”

The guide developed by the groups is available at and it will also be offered and discussed at 2014 grower meetings.

Listen to my interview with Andy here: Interview with Andy LaVigne, ASTA

2013 NAFB Convention Photo Album

New Wyffels Hybrids TV Campaign

Wyffels HybridsWyffels Hybrids is running a new television campaign. The campaign was created by Musta/Melzer Advertising, Minneapolis; produced by O&H Brand Design, Dallas; directed by Liberal Media Films, Dallas; with edit and post by Charlie Uniform Tango, Dallas. There are four spots in the campaign which runs in midwestern corn belt markets.

Jeff Hartz, Marketing Director, Wyffels Hybrids, says, “Wyffels doesn’t have the market share and sheer distribution dominance to market the same way as our larger competitors. We start by talking to the customer differently. Everyone flatters the customer. Instead, we talk about what we believe in. And we try to do it in a very personal, clever and idealistic way. The personality is real and it provides a different experience than our customers can find with many of our competitors.”

Tim Musta, Art Director, Musta/Melzer, says, “These spots come right from the brand voice of our client. They needed to look and sound different. Because our client always says things that other people in the category can’t say, won’t say or both. And we wanted the spots to look like they were economically produced. Because they were.”

Here’s one of the ads in the campaign: