Seed companies invest billions in R&D annually to bring new genetics, traits and more to your farm. We want to introduce you to a few of the faces behind the innovations. Learn more about their story and the challenges they face. Here's the first of an eight-part series.
Peter Lynch always knew he wanted to help farmers, but he didn’t know how he would make it happen until he took an hourly job in college with a plant breeder. That University of Minnesota staff member changed the course of Lynch’s life, which would later impact several major agricultural companies.
“Each summer he would take his employees who were interested in one of the university vans on a road trip for a week,” he says. “We visited three or four private research operations and one other land-grant university’s breeding program. The first summer I got to see these private and public breeding programs was a real eye- and door-opener for me.”
Lynch fell in love at first sight and decided plant breeding was the right course for him. And for the past 35 years, he’s proven he made the right choice.
“I joined AgReliant almost two years ago as the vice president of research,” Lynch says. “Prior to that I had been with Monsanto and prior to that with Dow AgroSciences—all around plant breeding.”
In 35 years he’s created quite the resume of crops after working in oats, barley, pearl millet, popcorn and, of course, field corn. Lynch earned his PhD from Iowa State University through a unique program where he completed his field research in India, working on pearl millet.
Each of those experiences are valuable to helping tackle the challenges that farmers and industry face, he says.
“This year’s big challenge for farmers has been getting seed in the ground,” Lynch says. “On the larger scale we’re looking at a gap between the public relying on science for assessing the suitability of a new technology—they rely less on science more and more.”
He points to litigation around glyphosate as an example of where emotion—not science—has been the driver in decision-making. With the potential for new technologies to change the way products come to the market, Lynch says this is one challenge agriculture needs to rise to meet.
Additionally, he believes researchers and breeders must be continual learners in this fast-paced industry to keep up with the changing needs of farmers.
“First, researchers and breeders will soon have access to much more and different data—that is what will help them have a much deeper understanding of how to drive improvement,” he says.
“Second, researchers need to learn to use new breeding techniques,” he adds. “It’s still in the early days but it’s moving very, very quickly, and this technology will enable researchers to think differently about the challenges our customers face.”