Mukuka Talks Food Security at #ASTAannual

Kelly Marshall Leave a Comment

asta-mukuka-2016For most of us, a lack of food security isn’t so much a problem as it is a distant possibility. For many on the African continent, however, food security is still an awaited hope. John Mukuka attended the American Seed Trade Association event from Africa to share the important message of what is being done to replace hope with reality.

Mukuka works on behalf of the COMESA Region, an area of Africa made up of countries with different laws regarding seeds. Because of these conflicting regulations growers have restricted access to tools that could help make them successful. Being able to trade seeds across African countries would ensure access to good seeds.  With a full set of tools feeding their continent can be done, Mukuka assures.  The resources are there.

“We want an Africa which is food secure. When we have an Africa which is food secure, then we will be able to develop our continent. And developing our continent is on us,” he emphasizes.

Naturally, working across borders isn’t an easy task. Some believe changes are happening too quickly. But Mukuka believes a little bit of success will help to change their minds. Everyone wants to eat good food, he told me, and when they see the results they will support the program.

Mukuka has reason to believe this because already the efforts have seen some small success– if, in fact, you call doubling yeidls a “small success.”

“We have farmers that are buying seed at a cheaper price. And this is part of the work we are doing. And so we are excited about that. Because if a farmer has a good quality seed he is assured of increasing his yields by 50 percent.”

A 50 percent increase in yields from access to good seeds?  We’re excited about that too.

You can listen to my full interview here: Interview with John Mukuka, COMESA

2016 ASTA-OSA Annual Meeting photo album

Ag Group, ASTA, Food Security

#Enogen Growers Help Increase #Ethanol Production

Joanna Schroeder Leave a Comment

Farmers growing the Enogen technology for ethanol production are not only benefiting the environment, but the ethanol production industry as well. The Enogen enzyme trait enables more ethanol output from each kernel of corn. The race media learned about about the role of Enogen in ethanol production and the benefits of using E15 in race cars this weekend during the American Ethanol E15 250 presented by Enogen. Syngenta hosted a press conference to educate the racing media about the benefits of E15, including the amazing fuel benefits of the high octane fuel. Following the briefing, Chuck Zimmerman was able to catch up with Jack Bernens.

enogen-jack-bernens“We’re here because we feel really strongly about the ethanol industry, and we’re developing products to make the ethanol industry more efficient and than it already is, which it’s very efficient,” Bernens told Zimmerman during an interview. “So we’ve developed products like Enogen, which are corn hybrids that are specifically designed for the ethanol industry to make those ethanol plants more efficient.”

“The farmer gets a play in that because he’s actually producing the corn that contains the Enogen enzyme marked for the ethanol corn plant. The ethanol corn plant becomes more efficient and the unity benefits from both of them putting more in to their pockets. So we like to say the ethanol plant wins, the farmer wins and the local community wins. And it’s really all about sustainability and how do we get more out of every kernel of corn that is processed, Bernens added.

Bernens noted that his company believes that a company should never stop innovating. Quad County Corn Processors was one of the very first plants to start innovating with Enogen technology back in 2012. They had developed a process to turn the fiber into of the corn kernel into cellulosic ethanol, coined Cellerate. Syngenta thought the process was innovative and Bernens said when they looked at what would happen if they combined Enogen it became one plus one equals three. Syngenta was so impressed they took an exclusive license to market the technology. Today, the Cellerate technology is producing about six percent more ethanol out of the same kernel of corn, and when you combine it with the Enogen technology, that plant is getting around 20 percent more ethanol output from the same amount of corn.

To learn more about Enogen and Cellerate technologies, listen to Chuck Zimmerman’s interview with Jack Bernens here: Interview with Jack Bernens, Syngenta Enogen

You can find lots of photos from Iowa Speedway race weekend here: Enogen Syngenta NASCAR Photo Album

Agribusiness, Audio, Biofuels, Corn, Ethanol, NASCAR, Syngenta

Soil Health Institute at #ASTAannual

Cindy Zimmerman Leave a Comment

asta-16-cover-cropsThe cover crops session at the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) annual meeting in Portland, Oregon heard about a new initiative focused on soil health – the Soil Health Institute.

Dr. Wayne Honeycutt, who was Deputy Chief for Science and Technology for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, is president and CEO of the group that is working to protect and enhance the soil through science-based research and advancement. He says the initiative was started by the Noble Foundation just last December as an evolution of the Soil Renaissance. “The Noble Foundation has committed $20 million over the next ten years to enhance the health of not only our nation’s, but the world’s soils,” said Honeycutt.

asta-16-honeycuttHoneycutt says the institute will be holding their first annual meeting at the end of July in Louisville. “There we’re going to have a number of thought leaders and working with them to help identify and prioritize research needs,” he said. After that, they will be putting together a strategic action plan for the institute.

Cover crops are playing an increasingly important role in soil health and Honeycutt says more research in the area will definitely be in the plan. “There’s so many things we don’t know yet,” he said. “So that’s a real key area of research there.”

Learn more about the Soil Health Institute in this interview: Interview with Wayne Honeycutt, Soil Health Institute

2016 ASTA-OSA Annual Meeting photo album

ASTA, Audio, cover crops, Soil

Supporting Future #Seed Researchers

Cindy Zimmerman Leave a Comment

The future of the seed industry is in good hands if the students who are attending this year’s American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) annual meeting are any indication.

ASRF scholarship winner Matthew Rhine (center) with Glen Austin of Monsanto and Jim Tobin, retired

ASRF scholarship winner Matthew Rhine (center) with Glen Austin of Monsanto and Jim Tobin, retired from Monsanto

ASTA has a strong interest in encouraging young people pursuing careers in the industry in a number of ways, from programs that mentor students to supporting the efforts of the American Seed Research Foundation (ASRF) which has a scholarship program for graduate students.

This year’s Roger Krueger Memorial Scholarship was presented to Matthew Rhine, a graduate student at Texas A&M University who is working on improving soybeans across specific soil types. “I’m looking at trait identification based on nursery populations to see which traits are required for performance in each environment,” said Rhine, who added that being at ASTA and being able to interact with so many different people in the seed industry was a great experience.

The scholarship is named in honor of Dr. Roger Krueger, a seed researcher with Monsanto who passed away in 2007. “We’ve been giving a scholarship ever since to recognize him and to encourage students doing graduate work in the area of seed to follow in the footsteps of this terrific man who was a good friend of ours,” said Jim Tobin, who is retired from Monsanto but represented the company in awarding the scholarship this week.

Listen to my interview with Jim and Matthew here: Interview with ASRF Scholarship sponsor Monsanto and winner Matthew Rhine

2016 ASTA-OSA Annual Meeting photo album

ASTA, Audio, Award, Research, Seed

#ASTAannual Selects New IEC Chair

Kelly Marshall Leave a Comment

ASTA-Withers-2016Karen Withers will be taking the reins for American Seed Trade Association’s  International Executive Committee for the coming year.

Withers works for Pennington Seed handling their international sales, so she’s well versed in trials and tribulations that come with work on the international level.  She’s also had two years serving the committee as vice chair, joining the year before that as chair of the Phytosanitary committee- a group with an interest in the international sector.

According to Withers, IEC is very busy, covering a variety of topics and meeting several times each year.  “It’s a very active group. They’re very proactive in trying to solve issues going on for all sectors of the seed industry,” she says, talking about the work they do with embassies in Washington D.C.

But if the work is varied it’s also unpredictable. Withers says it’s hard to pinpoint what might take place in the coming year. There will certainly be issues involving TTP, but the uncertainty of the agreement means the committees work is undecided as well. Regardless, we wish her well.

You can listen to my full interview with Karen here: Interview with ASTA IEC Chair, Karen Withers

2016 ASTA-OSA Annual Meeting photo album

Ag Group, ASTA, International, Trade

#ASTAannual Honors Exemplary Members

Kelly Marshall Leave a Comment

When it comes to volunteering and service there are some people who just seem to stand out. Here at the American Seed Trade Association annual meeting the board took the opportunity to honor a few of those people and thank them for the contributions they’ve made to the industry.

ASTA-2016-GuminaMike Gumina was recognized with the ASTA Lifetime Honorary Member Award. Gumina is the global CEO of RiceTech AG and volunteers, he says, for the Karma.  Gumina has spent his career working in agriculture, figuring it to be the next best thing to farming.  In the early 90s he first joined ASTA.  When he got the chance to serve on the ISF board he found a fit.  “That was a great opportunity for me to use my international business experience and be additive to the overall seed trade process,” he shares.

Serving in that capacity lead to a 14 year stretch of working in various positions, during which time he’s learned that the issues facing the seed industry haven’t changed as much as one might think.

“I think the challenges are the challenges they’ve always been.  We have to communicate the value of seed, the value of research, the value of intellectual property rights.  We need to advocate for our positions in the various government venues so we can have an environment where our companies can succeed and our customers can succeed.  Those aren’t really different from 100 years ago when the Association was established.”

What is different, Gumina says, is that the industry is much more heavily regulated, and the intensity we’ll have to attack those issues is greater as well.

Listen to Cindy’s interview with Mike here: Interview with Mike Gumina, ASTA Award Winner

Larry Nees was also honored with the ASTA Distinguished Service Award.  Nees is a chemist for the State of Indiana and was unfortunately not able to attend the event in person, but did send a video thank you for the honor of being selected.

2016 ASTA-OSA Annual Meeting photo album

Ag Group, ASTA, Audio, Award

Seeds of Tomorrow at #ASTAannual

Kelly Marshall Leave a Comment

ASTA-2016-WellsIf NASA is looking for extraordinary out in space, CASIS is looking for extraordinary right here on earth. The Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) manages the laboratory on the International Space Station (ISS), providing resources needed to launch research and innovation that comes from experiments in micro gravity. Breakthroughs in space often lead to breakthroughs on earth.

Here at the American Seed Trade Association annual meeting Debbie Wells shared a presentation about Tomatosphere; a mission to engage students with projects pertaining to growing plants in space.

“We have some goals over the next ten years. One of those is to reach over 2 million students as part of that education. And the tomatosphere cooperation is going to help up with that goal, as well as help ya’ll expand that program in the United States.”

That program she’s referring to is First the Seed, a response by ASTA to Canada’s success getting STEM and space into the classroom.  The opportunity to experiment in space offers so many possibilities.  Already they’ve had great success creating crystals in the micro gravity environment which enabled researchers to produce a more effective drug treatment for patients with muscular dystrophia.  Scientists hope for similar opportunities with seeds.

“We’re beginning to see some really interesting research results about gene expression and how, when microgravity is affecting the plants it is a stressor, just like pH or temperature or any of those other things. And we can study that,” explains Wells.  They can study that and so can students.  School children will be sending 1.2 million tomato seeds to ISS next month.  Once they’ve germinated, results can be compared to plants grown in the classroom.  Within the next year and a half or so astronauts hope to be eating fresh tomatoes grown right on the space station.

Wells invites members of ASTA to be part of the program in several ways.  She’s looking to work together with companies that already have STEM programs to connect science to students.  They also need experts in the areas of research to help with projects.  Another option is to bring Tomatosphere into your local school or donate to help keep the project free to kids.

You can listen to the complete message here: Remarks by Debbie Wells, CASIS

2016 ASTA-OSA Annual Meeting photo album

Ag Group, ASTA, Audio

The Novus Commitment to Science + Sustainability

Jamie Johansen Leave a Comment

novus-16-anniversary-54-editedNovus International strives to help feed the world affordable, wholesome food each and everyday. The center of that vision is sustainability. Definitions for the word throughout the agricultural community vary, but the results are the same. Novus defines sustainable as the endurance of systems and processes and along with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines for sustainability reporting, they have conducted an in-depth sustainability report to outline their strategy for the future.

The report is centered on their Sustainability Priorities Compass which reflects the most important impacts on Novus’s business and stakeholders in driving sustainable decisions and innovation. The drivers include customer productivity and profitability, engaged and empowered employees, sustainable animal agriculture, human health and nutrition, and supply chain efficiency.

As the team celebrates 25 years of innovation in animal nutrition, the topic of science vs. sustainability has been discussed. Dr. Mercedes Vazuez-Anon, senior director of animal nutrition research and facilities, and Jake Piel, sustainability manager, sat on a panel during the media event to answer the question as to who is driving the bus? – science or sustainability.

The duo agreed. Science and sustainability have to work together, they have to live together. Dr. Vazuez-Anon said sustainability will challenge science and take it to the next level where emotion was once only measured. She believes science has improved to help the agricultural industry make decisions that before simply weren’t possible.

Listen to the complete panel discussion on science vs. sustainability here: Novus Sustainability Panel

I also sat down with Jake following the panel to pick his brain further. He likes to picture three legs of a sustainability stool with social, economic and environmental each representing a leg. The economic side of things used to be the driving force and now Jake says social is gaining steam. However, no longer are they at the mercy of the other. Jake firmly believe all legs needs each other.

Listen to my complete interview with Jake to hear his prospective when it comes to determining ROI in sustainability and his advice to others in the B2B market. Interview with Jake Piel, Novus

View and download photos from the event here:Novus International 25th Anniversary Celebration Photo Album

Agribusiness, Animal Health, Audio, Livestock, Novus International, Nutrition, Sustainability

#ASTAannual Honors #Seed Industry Legend

Cindy Zimmerman 1 Comment

asta-16-owenThe American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) instituted a new award at the 133rd annual meeting in Portland, Oregon this year, the Lifetime Industry Achievement Award, and the first honoree is Dr. Owen Newlin, retired from DuPont Pioneer.

Presenting the award, ASTA Chair Risa DeMasi called Newlin a legend in the industry. “When someone spends a lifetime, more than 50 years, tirelessly giving of themselves to contribute to our industry, beyond what most would consider humanly possible, there should be a special award that sets this individual apart,” said DeMasi. “Owen is the longest running ASTA president who remains an active participant on the ASTA board of directors to this day.” Newlin served as president of ASTA in 1985-86, and his career in the industry started in 1955. He was Senior Vice President of Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a company his father helped to create.

As an additional honor, DeMasi says the new award will be known as the Owen J. Newlin Lifetime Achievement Award.

listen to an interview with Dr. Newlin here: Interview with ASTA award winner Dr. Owen Newlin

2016 ASTA-OSA Annual Meeting photo album

ASTA, Audio, Award, Seed

Krysta Harden Keynotes #ASTAannual

Kelly Marshall Leave a Comment


ASTA Chair, Risa DeMasi (left) and Vice President of Public Policy and Chief Sustainability Officer at DuPont, Krysta Harden (right).

Attendees of the American Seed Trade Association were privileged to hear, not just a great speaker, but someone who has a lot of experience in the agriculture industry. Krysta Harden recently made the move to chief sustainability officer at DuPont from her previous position as deputy secretary of the USDA. Her experience has taught her a thing or two about what it will take to move agriculture forward.

“Nothing matters more than your time in D.C. or with your members of Congress when they’re at home. And I tell folks all the time; it does not matter that you know who they are. Here’s the key. Do they know you?” Harden challenges her audience.

Being the person your member of Congress can reach out to when they have a question about an issue is paramount, Harden emphasizes, because the decisions they make surrounding agriculture are difficult ones.  “We see [our issues] as very black and white. We’re right. But they have somebody else, or many somebody elses, in their ear saying, well, here’s my side. And I’m right. There are a lot of different voices.”

And the issues coming aren’t small ones. Intellectual property rights, germplasm, diversity of seed are some of the ideas that are misunderstood by consumers but are critical to agriculture. That disconnect results in part because we don’t brag on ourselves enough, Harden believes. The consumer is sophisticated in some ways, but they’re getting information from the wrong sources. People in agriculture have many great attributes, but unfortunately modesty is one of them.

“We need a voice,” Harden says. “We need a loud voice. We need an informed voice, based on science, based on research, based on hard work. Based on what we know for a fact.”

You can hear Harden’s full message here: ASTA Annual remarks from Krysta Harden, DuPont

2016 ASTA-OSA Annual Meeting photo album

Ag Group, ASTA, Audio, Seed