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Major plant breeding investments continue

Tom J. Bechman 2 shucked ears of corn being compared
BREEDING BETTER CORN? What will ears from tomorrow’s corn hybrids look like? Several developments are underway to speed up the selection process.
Hi-Tech Farming: Both traditional and startup companies are partnering to push improved crop breeding methods forward.

“Moneyball” was a popular movie released in 2011 that revealed how baseball teams relied on numbers and analytics to decide which players to keep. You could make the case that a decade later, corn breeding is following a similar path at an increasing rate.

Beck’s, Atlanta, Ind., and Computomics, Tubingen, Germany, recently expanded a collaboration that Beck’s plant breeders say will help them deliver high-yielding, region-specific products faster.

“Plant breeding is a numbers game,” says Tom Koch, Beck’s breeding manager. “We aren’t looking for needles in a haystack. We’re building a database, testing virtual hybrids, then testing the top performers.”

Computomics uses machine learning to predict how products will perform, partly based on historical evidence. The company says its technology is nothing short of disruptive, which means faster development of better hybrids for farmers. Visit beckshybrids.com and computomics.com.

Gene-editing tools

Inari, based in Cambridge, Mass., is all about applying powerful gene-editing tools to make desired changes in plants and unlock unprecedented yield potential, spokespersons say. Recently, the company announced a major collaboration with Beck’s.

Ponsi Trivisvavet, CEO at Inari, says pushing the boundaries of what’s possible to address current and future challenges requires these types of arrangements. She believes Inari’s novel predictive design and advanced multiplex gene-editing technology, coupled with the breeding program at Beck’s, will produce tangible results. Learn more at inari.com.

Significant investment

Only a company since 2016 and only operating facilities in Indiana since 2018, Inari announced this summer that it will invest $22.3 million to upgrade, expand and equip some 102,000 square feet of space at the Purdue Research Park in West Lafayette, Ind. Inari, which trademarked the SeeDesign platform, says it will create 129 new jobs in Indiana alone by the end of 2023.

Bayer introduces herbicide

You may not see it until mid-decade, but Bayer is banking on Convintro being a name you remember if you battle waterhemp and Palmer amaranth. It contains Diflufenican, which is new to North America. Used in Europe for years, mostly in lentils and winter cereals, the herbicide will be aimed toward corn and soybean weed control here. What’s exciting is that it represents a new site of action for waterhemp and Palmer amaranth. The next step is obtaining EPA approval. Visit bayer.com.

Controlled-release fertilizer

Pursell recently announced plans to invest in a state-of-the-art production facility for next-generation coating technologies in Savannah, Ga. The company’s existing plant is in Sylacauga, Ala. Spokespersons say the new investment is vital to expand the availability of slow-release fertilizer products.

Pursell currently offers PurYield fertilizer, plus PurForm for specialty crops and PurKote for turf and ornamental markets. The company claims that compared to other enhanced-efficiency fertilizers, its products are coated with a unique, thin membrane which enables higher nutrient content and more consistent release. See pursellfertilizer.com.

New products

Nufarm recently launched two new products. Saxony 100 FS is a concentrated azoxystrobin seed treatment. It’s effective against seedling diseases such as pythium damping-off, rhizoctonia seedling blight, fusarium and aspergillus.

Longbow EC is a harvest aid herbicide that can help clean up more than 60 broadleaf weeds, including pigweeds, lambsquarters and waterhemp. The active ingredient, carfentrazone-ethyl, is an older chemical, but Nufarm is now offering it in this new product as a defoliant and harvest aid. See nufarm.com/uscrop.

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