Collaboration is key to the future of wheat. With several valuable global investments in cereal crops this year, Syngenta has expanded its leading footprint abroad. The recent global agreements Syngenta has established with companies such as Swedish agriculture-food company Lantemännen, Italian seed company Società Produttori Sementi (PSB) and Belgian brewing company Anheuser-Busch InBev, provide Syngenta opportunities to increase the diversity of its germplasm, assess quality profiles and find advanced technologies beneficial to North American growers in the years to come. The Syngenta North American breeding program can apply the innovations and strategies used by their global partners to improve their future varieties, ultimately helping farmers grow cereal crops more profitably.
“Throughout our history of wheat breeding in North America, almost all of our significant major breakthroughs in quality, yield or adaptation are related to crosses that involve germplasm from other parts of the world,” explained Rollie Sears, senior science and technology fellow for Syngenta and head of their cereals breeding for North America. “These partnerships have always been productive, and they will continue to impact our wheat and barley crops for many years to come.”
Optimism in opportunities abroad
Acquisitions and global breeding collaborations work to strengthen specific weaknesses in regional germplasm programs around the world and also help Syngenta identify traits that can benefit North American growers. Syngenta recently acquired German and Polish winter wheat and winter oilseed rape breeding and business operations of Lantemännen, a Swedish food, energy and agriculture group, which gives Syngenta access to high-quality germplasm and technologies commonly used abroad to develop future cereal varieties in the United States.
“When Syngenta acquires new germplasm, it broadens our genetic pool and also provides us the opportunity to screen that germplasm in new environments and look for unique properties that may benefit North American farmers,” Sears explains. “We can compare testing new germplasm to exploring a new town or going to a national park for the first time. You aren’t exactly sure what you will find, but it’s a lot of fun and ultimately can benefit the cereals industry.”
While Syngenta examines the germplasm from Lantemännen to see where it might be best adapted in the U.S., the company remains optimistic that the traits identified will benefit its growers in the future. According to Sears, screening germplasm from global breeding programs will be a long-term commitment for Syngenta in terms of gaining direct benefits in North America, but the knowledge gained through agreements like this can help improve quality and genetic yield potential of cereal crops in this region.
Closer to key industry groups
To further expand their breeding program, Syngenta recently acquired the Italian seed company PSB and partnered with Belgian brewing company Anheuser-Busch InBev. These collaborations enable Syngenta to work directly with key consumer industries to develop new varieties that will not only offer increased yield potential, but also better meet the changing quality standards and demands set forth for these industries.
“The relationship with PSB brings us closer to key milling and baking groups around the world that deal with durum wheat,” Sears said. “With this partnership and the Anheuser-Busch InBev agreement, we are integrating and linking our germplasm efforts to consumer demands to breed crops that are better tailored to meet the protein and quality requirements they’ve established.”
According to Sears, working closely with value chain companies also introduces Syngenta to durum wheat and barley breeding technologies abroad. Syngenta can test these genetics in U.S. environments to determine where they best fit in their breeding landscape, potentially expanding business and leading to a significant advancements in the cereals breeding sector.
Innovations at home
While they invest abroad to help strengthen their cereals breeding program, Syngenta continues to enhance their efforts here in North America. Breeders and trials are divided across nine research sites in North America to better address regional needs. Syngenta works with a locally-based AgriPro® Associate Network to provide localized solutions that meet the individual needs of farmers across all major cereal-growing geographies of the U.S. New varieties are released to AgriPro associates as foundation seed, which they grow and then release in subsequent years as certified seed. This network enables Syngenta to continue to deliver new varieties that meet geography-specific pest and weather-related challenges.
“We invest in our breeding program globally and locally because our commitment to cereals starts with the seed. We understand the importance for our growers to start the season off right with a strong variety that provides a healthy end crop,” Sears said. “With that said, we are always trying to identify new traits and tools that may help us do a better job in North America. When we see an opportunity that will fit our business plans and objectives, at home or abroad, we will pursue it. Investments in our cereals breeding program are important and may lead to improved varieties that meet and often exceed industry standards for protein and quality.”