Farm Progress

Beck's explains claim to offer world's most diverse genetic seed offering

If you make an attention-grabbing statement, you better be able to back it up.

Tom Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

November 22, 2016

3 Min Read

Beck’s, a regional seed company, issued a news release recently claiming that it could offer the most diverse genetic and trait offering in the industry. That kind of claim catches attention, and also raises eyebrows.

Indiana Prairie Farmer sat down with Kevin Cavanaugh, director of research, at Beck’s headquarters in Atlanta, Ind.

“We believe that the claim is accurate,” Cavanaugh says. “We can offer our customers the most diversity in genetic and trait choices compared to anyone else in the industry.”

Here are the different components that back the claim, Cavanaugh says.


Strong relationship with Monsanto. Monsanto is one of the leading developers of GMO traits. “We have developed a relationship with Monsanto that goes beyond just being a licensee,” Cavanaugh says. “It allows us to access traits which the company has that make sense for our customers.”

Access to DuPont Pioneer genetics. Pioneer originally began marketing genetics to regional companies several years ago. Each company sells hybrids that it obtains from Pioneer through this program under an exclusive name. The products are sold and distributed in a bag with a different color scheme than the company’s other offerings.

Pioneer has since bought all but two of those companies: Beck’s and Burrus Seed in Illinois, Cavanaugh says.

“We are the only company that has an exclusive crossing agreement with Pioneer to take any inbred from Pioneer and cross it with an inbred developed in our own breeding program,” Cavanaugh says. “We don’t have rights to breed with their material. What we have is crossing rights to use one of their inbreds and one of our inbreds to make a hybrid.”

This adds to the diversity because no one else has this type of agreement with Pioneer, he explains.    

Full rights to GreenLeaf germplasm. Beck’s also has access to inbreds offered by GreenLeaf Genetics, the licensing arm of Syngenta. Essentially, this gives Beck’s the opportunity to offer genetics from Syngenta’s breeding program. Syngenta has been aggressive in developing some of the newer, more effective insect-resistance traits. Beck’s can access those, as well.

Access to Dow AgroSciences genetics. Beck’s also can access Dow AgroSciences’ germplasm through agreements with that company, Cavanaugh says. This also gives Beck’s access to GMO traits Dow AgroSciences develops.

In-house breeding programs. Perhaps the biggest key for the future is that Beck’s has its own breeding program, Cavanaugh says. To be accurate, the company has five breeding programs underway for corn. It does not have a breeding program for soybeans at this time.  

“We have five corn breeders, and each one of them is working independently on their own breeding program,” he says. “The trend used to be to locate a breeder at a station, and let him or her develop a breeding program. We have three breeders here and two in Iowa. There is synergy in having them together, even though they work independently. It also gives them access to molecular marker labs and other tools which are at a central location.”

Beck’s is one of only seven companies with actual corn breeding programs in the U.S. Currently, more than 10% of Beck’s sales traces back to its own in-house breeding programs.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like