Syngenta Is Committed to Developing Innovative Seed Offerings
“We are committed to growing our seeds business and concentrating on growers who demand choice, technology and trusted agronomic advice,” says David Hollinrake, president of Syngenta Seeds.
Underscoring this new era at Syngenta Seeds is a commitment to listening to what growers need, advancing its world-class germplasm, engineering new traits and innovating with emerging technologies.
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Syngenta invests more than $1.3 billion each year on global R&D and recently announced a $400 million incremental investment in U.S. seed operations over the next five years.
“What we bring to growers are new crop technologies to help give them yield, yield stability and the potential for greater return on investment,” says Michiel van Lookeren Campagne, Ph.D., global head of seeds research at Syngenta. These technologies come in the form of genetics and traits that offer disease resistance, drought resistance, insect control, herbicide tolerance and higher yields, complemented by innovations in digital and crop protection.
While Syngenta depends on NK® retailers and Golden Harvest® Seed Advisors to help deliver its seed products to farms, van Lookeren Campagne says he likes to visit as many growers as he can to gain a fundamental understanding of the challenges they face.
“Talking to growers in the field is always insightful for understanding what their problems are and how we can serve them better,” he says.
The groundbreaking traits in the Syngenta corn and soybean portfolio are helping growers manage pests and other plant stresses more effectively, while also giving them unprecedented yield advantages.
Van Lookeren Campagne recalls a trip during which he realized the impact Syngenta Seeds R&D has globally. “I was driving through southern Brazil, and Agrisure Viptera® corn was everywhere. It was the only thing that was standing against the onslaught of Brazilian corn insect pests. As a scientist, that was really fantastic to see.”
It’s also rewarding for van Lookeren Campagne to see how Agrisure Viptera—a Syngenta trait that offers the most comprehensive above-ground corn insect control in the industry—and the rest of the Agrisure® family of traits are helping U.S. corn growers produce higher-yielding crops. Agrisure Duracade® is setting a new standard in corn rootworm control, while Agrisure Artesian® maximizes yield when it rains and increases yield when it doesn’t.
Van Lookeren Campagne admits that a market fit for the out-of-the-box innovation his team first sees in the lab is not always clear, initially.
“You don’t always know the full impact novel technologies may have, but you can sense their tremendous potential to benefit growers,” he says. “The persistence of our people in R&D to guide promising technologies into novel products that address grower needs is something that makes researchers and Syngenta as a whole successful, ultimately leading to the success of our customers.”
Take, for example, Enogen® corn, which is a game changer in the ethanol and animal feed market. “Enogen is something completely unique,” van Lookeren Campagne says. “When we brought Enogen to market, it was unlike anything we’d advanced thus far.”
With one of the world’s largest germplasm pools and the grit to try something different, Syngenta is delivering genetic gain for yield at a faster rate than any of its competitors.
“Plant breeding has been going on for thousands of years,” says Tim Kelliher, Ph.D., principal scientist in reproduction biology at Syngenta. “But how we conduct that breeding, how we incorporate genetics and how we improve crops have all really changed over the years.”
Syngenta integrates mathematics, genetics, breeding, physiology and agronomy into its product development efforts. As a result, scientists are able to carefully select the right genetics to enhance crop performance the most.
“We’re heading into a period of design-driven products,” van Lookeren Campagne says. “It’s teamwork across these disciplines that’s going to make a product that is significantly different from existing technologies.”
“We’re heading into a period of design-driven products. It’s teamwork across these disciplines that’s going to make a product that is significantly different from existing technologies.”
In recent years, Syngenta has increasingly collaborated with data analytics experts, who are in the business of solving complex challenges. Syngenta positions advanced data analytics as the “next agriculture revolution,” creating the future era of plant breeding, where design supplants the traditional trial-and-error processes of the past and reduces the time required to develop new products.
“We want to drive innovation and accelerate discovery by joining new talent to agricultural challenges,” says Greg Doonan, head of novel algorithm development at Syngenta. “We’re fully utilizing quality data and advanced analytics during each stage of the R&D process, which results in increased productivity.”
But Doonan notes Syngenta doesn’t stop there. “We want that process to translate into an improved grower experience,” he says. “Utilizing the same data, we’re able to use mathematical modeling to determine how products are likely to perform in specific environmental conditions and place the right products for growers’ specific fields.”
Another important advancement that Syngenta is using is CRISPR-Cas. CRISPR-Cas differs from conventional breeding and genetic modification, in that it enables the precise editing of a gene native to the crop to achieve desirable traits, bringing greater precision and efficiency to plant-breeding programs.
“Gaining access to CRISPR-Cas technology allows us to accelerate the rate of innovation in the development of new plant varieties and bring novel traits into the hands of growers faster and with greater efficiency,” van Lookeren Campagne says.
“Using this advanced technology will help us deliver on the 21st century’s food production challenges.”
All for the Farmer
At the end of the day, Syngenta recognizes what’s most important.
“A lot of the folks I work with at Syngenta have a connection to the farm,” Kelliher says. “As much as we are immersed in science, technology and working on developing the future of agriculture biotechnologies, we have a sincere mission in our hearts to make the lives of farmers easier.”