Syngenta continues to take significant strides in the wheat breeding sector, using innovative technology platforms, such as genetic markers and doubled haploid (DH) technology, as new means of trait discovery. Additionally, the company recently expanded its Junction City, Kan., research site to include an advanced hybrid wheat greenhouse, alongside its North American DH lab.
“Nearly a half billion acres of wheat are grown around the world, but wheat growers are not seeing yield and quality increases in line with other crops like corn and soybeans. We’re working to change that,” said Norm Dreger, head of cereals North America, Syngenta. “Our knowledge and expertise in cereals, and our ability to utilize all available technologies is enabling us to significantly reduce the time it takes us to bring new, high-performing varieties to our customers.”
To further support this mission, Syngenta has ramped up their wheat breeding program in North America even more. The company has been breeding cereal varieties for nearly four decades within North America, and in 2012, the company released its first wheat variety for the Pacific Northwest developed using the advanced DH technology, which cuts variety development time from 10 to 12 years to 6 to 7 years.
Syngenta is now increasing its efforts to release commercially-available hybrid wheat varieties in North America. “We’re applying the same principles we used in successfully developing hybrid barley for Europe to develop hybrid wheat varieties for North America,” said Rollie Sears, senior science and technology fellow, Syngenta. “Hybrid wheat can offer growers yield stability and consistent performance across fields with varying soil types and qualities. Our goal is to release the hybrid wheat varieties to growers by the end of the decade.”
Sears leads the research and development (R&D) operations for cereals seeds and is located in Junction City. His team of seven regionally-based lead breeders are embedded in research sites across the U.S. and Canada. They work with their breeding teams on a daily basis to develop traits and solutions that address geography-specific production challenges, ensuring growers receive the best quality, highest performing varieties.
Sears and his team at the Syngenta Junction City research site recently opened its doors for a public tour of the new greenhouse facility and the innovative DH lab. “We feel it’s extremely important for our growers to have the opportunity to see the process we execute to take a variety from conception to commercial release, as well as the new technologies we’ve implemented to speed up this process and meet their needs in a shorter amount of time,” Sears explained.
Syngenta also continues to work with a locally-based AgriPro Associate Network to tailor 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 over the following few years as certified seed to the public. This network enables Syngenta to continue to deliver new varieties that meet geography-specific pest and weather-related challenges.
“Our commitment to cereals starts with the seed, but it doesn’t end there – in fact, it’s just the beginning. Worldwide, Syngenta invests roughly $130 million and has more than 400 people committed to cereals R&D, and we are on a constant quest to remain leaders in providing farmers with total crop solutions,” Dreger explained. “Since 2000, we have tripled our investment in cereals R&D and nearly doubled testing locations in all North American regions, and we’re not looking back. Our program will continue to grow, and we will remain committed to helping farmers grow more wheat from fewer resources.”