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Agricultural News

Harvesting the Benefits of the Syngenta Wheat Breeding Program

Thu, 10 Dec 2015 15:44:42 CST

Harvesting the Benefits of the Syngenta Wheat Breeding Program

Yesterday's traditional breeding, today's applied technology and a promise for better performance tomorrow these are qualities that embody the Syngenta wheat breeding program. Syngenta is uniquely positioned to create value for cereal growers around the globe by creating innovative solutions that set unprecedented standards for yield, quality and sustainability. With the wheat breeding team increasing their focus on hybrid wheat, Syngenta's newest additions bring a wealth of knowledge, enabling us to add new solutions to our unique portfolio. Syngenta's leading footprint across seeds, seed treatment and crop protection enables us to "think like a grower," and innovate and deliver integrated solutions to help farmers grow more cereals.

The Syngenta wheat breeding team helps make the dream of improving wheat productivity across North America a reality. Rollie Sears, senior science and technology fellow at Syngenta, and Joe Smith, chief spring wheat breeder for AgriPro® wheat, have made significant strides in shaping the Syngenta wheat breeding program. Although both Sears and Smith are retiring, they have set up the program to continue to grow stronger with recent additions to the team, including Carlos Iglesias and John Davies.

Rollie Sears served as a wheat breeder at Kansas State University and over his career has released four leading varieties planted in the state of Kansas. With more than 40 years of wheat breeding experience, Sears has made significant contributions to the industry both as a public and private wheat breeder, and is a senior fellow for cereals at Syngenta. His winter wheat varieties occupied an estimated 70 percent of the acreage in Kansas and 20 percent of the acres in Oklahoma and Texas from 2000-2010.

Specifically, Sears played a critical role in developing AgriPro brand winter wheat variety Jagalene, which has offered growers an excellent combination of agronomics and yield since being introduced in 2003. With Sears' successful direction, the Syngenta program has expanded to seven breeding stations with over 125 trial locations. He has also been a leading proponent of introducing doubled haploid technology to shorten the breeding cycle and helped shift the focus of the program to hybrid wheat.

"The Syngenta wheat breeding team understands the importance for our growers to start the season off right with a strong variety that provides a healthy end crop," Sears said. "With that said, we are always trying to identify new traits and tools that may help us do a better job. When we see an opportunity that will fit our objectives, at home or abroad, we will pursue it. Investments in our cereals breeding program are important and may lead to improved varieties that meet and often exceed industry standards."

Over the years, Sears has been a participant and leader in many organizations and groups within the wheat industry. Here are some in which he's been most active in recent years:

·         Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA): Focus on working together to establish guidelines for hybrid wheat certification standards

·         CIMMYT-Syngenta hybrid wheat public private partnership

·         Heat and Drought Wheat Improvement Consortium (HeDWIC): Focus on improving wheat's response to both high temperature and drought stress

·         International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP): Focus on increasing yield potential of wheat globally

·         Kansas State University, Wheat Genetics Resource Center/Industry University Cooperative Research Center

·         Wheat Initiative (WI): Focus on global organization of wheat research communities-public and private

·         National Research Council, Agriculture Agra-Food Canada, Canadian Wheat Alliance; Wheat Microspore public-private partnership

With his primary focus on the Northern Plains wheat geography, Joe Smith has 40 plus years of experience as the chief wheat breeder for AgriPro brand seeds at Syngenta. During that time he helped develop more than 60 commercial varieties of wheat for growers and played a major role in breeding tolerance against Fusarium head blight into AgriPro varieties.

Smith was also instrumental in developing AgriPro brand spring wheat variety SY Soren, which is a current leading spring wheat variety in the Northern Plains, and under his lead, AgriPro has held the number one, two and three most-planted spring wheat varieties, with more spring wheat acres planted every year. With fifteen trialing locations, five demonstration sites and a strong AgriPro associate network across the region, Smith is a testament to the commitment Syngenta has to maintaining the largest wheat breeding program in North America.

Smith comments about his retirement, "I have been waiting for just the right moment to retire. John Davies' presence will make sure we have a good flow of varieties coming through and will eventually see that expanded to hybrid wheats in the next few years. And for those years I have contributed, I thank you all."

Since Syngenta announced its plans to introduce hybrid wheat varieties this decade, the company's wheat breeding program has taken significant strides toward making the hybridization of wheat a quickly approaching reality. Sears and Smith's legacy continues with the wheat breeding team's newest additions, Carlos Iglesias and John Davies. With their combined experience, Syngenta is confident in the direction the wheat breeding program is pursuing, and is looking forward to the future of hybrid wheat. Here's an overview on the newest team members:

Carlos Iglesias:

·         Current head of North American wheat breeding for Syngenta overseeing breeders at seven locations

·         His mission is to coordinate the development of technologies to allow wheat farmers to be more competitive

·         Plant breeder with more than 20 years of experience (both CGIAR system and private seed sector), including 13 years as the hybrid research director for Weaver Popcorn Company

John Davies:

·         Active member of the AgriPro wheat breeding team as a Northern Plains spring wheat breeder based in Fargo for two years

·         Research assistant in wheat breeding at North Dakota State University for 6 years

·         Former WestBred/Monsanto Northern Plains wheat breeder for 8 years

"Syngenta is leading the industry with our deep breeding technology toolbox that includes marker assisted recurrent selection, native trait stacks, hybridization and genetics," says Sears. "Growers are already seeing benefits of this effort with many new wheat varieties introduced for 2016 planting and more in pre-commercial trials."

With Iglesias and Davies joining the Syngenta wheat breeding program, the organization is poised to continue to deliver high performing varieties and launch hybrid wheat by 2020. Syngenta is confident hybrid wheat will provide a new level of yield potential and profitability, promising better performance for years to come.



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