AgriPro's longstanding tradition as one of the nation's most consistent suppliers of certified wheat seed continues in 2010 with its announcement that it will enter the hybrid wheat business.
AgriPro is owned by Syngenta, a global seeds and crop protection company. From this point onward, expect to see AgriPro leverage that global reach to help wheat producers in Kansas maximize profitability, says Rollin Sears, Syngenta Senior Fellow.
At its annual Central Plains Region Kickoff in Salina March 23, Sears told AgriPro associates that the company has gained a wealth of hybrid cereal experience through Syngenta's ownership of the world's only commercial hybrid barley program, located in Germany. AgriPro becomes the most prominent private company to venture into hybrid wheat since Monsanto shuttered its Hybritech unit nearly a decade ago.
Randy Rich will head AgriPro's North American hybrid wheat program. Rich was Hybritech's hybrid wheat lead at the time of Monsanto's elimination of the HybriTech program in 2001. He's since been involved in corn breeding.
"We have the resources to make hybrid wheat a reality. The big bugaboo has been cost-effective seed production. We have gained a lot of knowledge from our hybrid barley program in Germany, which we will apply to wheat in North America. That was the first piece," Sears explains. "The second is to find someone like Randy Rich to drive it forward."
Why will hybrid wheat work today, when it was not feasible a decade ago? "We have the technology today we didn't have 10 years ago," Sears explains. Molecular markers allow hybrid work to be more efficient; cutting the variety development time dramatically.
Adding the hybrid program to AgriPro's business structure will not affect the conventional variety development program, Sears says. In fact, it should augment the conventional variety program.
"We have arguably the most experienced and most productive wheat breeders in North America," Sears says. "We have never left the wheat market. We've always been here. AgriPro has been around a long time."
Meanwhile, Syngenta's experience in global crop protection capabilities will have greater impact on the wheat program. Syngenta features a complete line of seed, crop protection and seed care products, Sears says. "We are working with the seed care and crop protection business units to optimize our relationship. We'll move forward and work more closely together."
Sears adds that Syngenta will continue to explore genetically modified traits in wheat. The company's fusarium-resistant GM wheat effort was halted in 2007, but can be renewed.
"We are significantly investing in research, adding new people in our seeds and seed research activities," Sears says.
Meanwhile, AgriPro will offer two new varieties to its certified seed associates this fall. These varieties will be available commercially to farmers for the Fall, 2011 seeding season:
CJ: named after retired AgriPro regional manager Chuck Johnson, CJ is a white chaffed, medium tall variety best suited for central and eastern Kansas. Its disease package makes it a good fit in no-till systems, according to Jon Rich, AgriPro wheat breeder. CJ has hessian fly resistance, is good on low pH soils and is moderately resistant to powdery mildew and tanspot. CJ has good bacterial resistance but is susceptible to head scab. CJ is reminiscent of Karl 92. "If that's the case, we really will have something," Rich says.
SY Gold: Suited for central and western Kansas, SY Gold has very high yield potential. Featuring good straw strength, drought tolerance and shatter resistance, the variety is moderately susceptible to powdery mildew. Its shortcoming is winterhardiness, Rich says. "It tends to look thin in the spring, but it always has yield," he says.