Ground Cover North : Ground Cover 072 January-February 2008 - North
JANUARY -- FEBRUARY 2008 GROUND COVER 5 Crop development CORPORATE RESHUFFLES ENERGISE CROP-BREEDING EFFORTS BY GIO BRAIDOTTI n The crop-breeding industry has recently seen a flurry of mergers, takeovers and new commercial ventures intended to boost the development of improved varieties. Recent changes have seen the emergence of a new company, InterGrain, in WA, restructures involving Pacific Seeds, Syngenta and LongReach Plant Breeders, and expansion plans at Nufarm possibly involving the Chinese chemical giant, ChemChina. In addition, Enterprise Grains Australia announced it is in negotiations with Australian Grain Technology. The GRDC's manager for wheat and barley breeding, Leecia Angus, says the commercial activity signifies substantial change for wheat breeding, which in the 1990s was conducted primarily through publicly funded breeding programs. The increased protection of varieties made it possible for the wheat-breeding industry to develop a commercial-breeding model that is now coming to fruition. Ms Angus says the Plant Breeders Rights Act of 1994 opened the way for breeders to control their intellectual property and claim End Point Royalties (EPRs): "That laid the foundation for commercial ventures to capitalise on successful wheat varieties and drive the development of future varieties through reinvesting revenue from EPRs." This was illustrated in WA recently where EPRs and intellectual property (IP) for wheat varieties developed at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia (DAFWA), were vested in a new company, InterGrain Pty Ltd. Rather than ceding all interest in wheat breeding, the WA Government used the recently passed Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act, which enables the government to be a shareholder in a commercial entity like InterGrain. This allows the previous owners of InterGrain's IP -- the state government and the GRDC -- to continue their partnership in wheat breeding, but as shareholders of a company rather than in an investor-provider relationship. InterGrain's inaugural CEO is Keith Alcock, former manager of cereal breeding at DAFWA: "We set up as a profit-making enterprise with profits destined for re- investment in WA-focused wheat breeding," Mr Alcock says. "Fewer than half of our current varieties have EPRs, but the tonnage of wheat being delivered from EPR- attracting varieties is increasing rapidly." InterGrain is initially subcontracting its wheat-breeding work to outside service providers, with DAFWA to figure prominently given its track record developing varieties such as WyalkatchemA, CarnamahA, Calingiri, Arrino and Westonia. "The people responsible for the growth in market share are the best ones to continue the breeding work, so when InterGrain evolves to a more in-house team, we expect the DAFWA staff to transfer into the company," Mr Alcock says. At DAFWA, Rob Delane, executive director of biosecurity and research, says it makes sense for a breeding program to be based in WA, given that the state makes up the biggest and most export-oriented part of the wheat industry. "Moving the program into a company structure helps to ensure its continuation, with InterGrain competing with Australia's other major wheat- breeding companies, AGT (Australian Grain Technology) and LongReach Plant Breeders." At the same time InterGrain was being launched, the commercial credentials of the new, private wheat-breeding sector were being underscored by other developments across the industry. After 44 years in the seed market, Pacific Seeds ventured into wheat breeding by acquiring an equity stake in LongReach Plant Breeders, the Syngenta-owned breeding program that supplies the Australian market. Pacific Seeds managing director Chris Bazley says LongReach caught the company's attention because of its national scope and its market focus. Conversely, LongReach general manager Tony Kent says Pacific Seeds' financial strength and commitment to developing an Australian wheat-seed business were essential for securing the future success of LongReach. "The acquisition of a controlling share of LongReach has fast-tracked our plans to have a dedicated wheat-breeding arm, one that provides the opportunity to tailor seed output to what wheat growers in Australia are looking for in their area," Mr Bazley says. Meanwhile, agrichemical company Nufarm, along with its crop-breeding division Nuseed, took an even bigger leap when its expansion plans saw the agrichemical company endorse a $3 billion takeover bid by China's largest state-owned chemical enterprise and the country's largest producer of pesticides. ChemChina secured the endorsement after launching a joint bid as a consortium with US private equity group Blackstone and US deal makers Fox Paine Management III LLC. The consortium entered into an Exclusivity Deed in November 2007 Nuseed produces and markets conventional and triazine-tolerant canola, but became a potential GM (genetically modified) canola producer after buying Roundup Ready® germplasm from Monsanto in 2006. Plans were under way to extend the breeding program to a broader range of crops, including cereals and pulses, when Nufarm endorsed the takeover bid by ChemChina. More information: Leecia Angus, GRDC, 02 6166 4500; Tress Walmsley, InterGrain, 08 9368 3371; Tony Kent, LongReach Plant Breeders, 03 9479 5060; Rob Delane, DAFWA, 08 9368 3420; Robert Reis, Nufarm, 03 9282 1000 (Left) Senior plant breeder Robyn McLean marking plots for culling in DAFWA research plots that will become a foundation for the new breeding company InterGrain. (Above) New commercial ventures are expected to boost the development of improved varieties. PHOTOS: EVAN COLLIS which has since expired without raising the necessary capital. Nufarm chairman, Kerry Hoggard said in a December statement that Nufarm would continue its expansion plans and was ready to participate in industry consolidation opportunities. Corporate affairs manager, Robert Reis, has made it clear that the plans do not disadvantage the seed division and could, potentially, produce new opportunities for Nuseed. "We have spoken to strategic partners like Monsanto and we do not anticipate these activities creating any obstacles to Nuseed operations," he says. New Benchmarks for Better Disease Resistance and Outstanding Yield Potential LongReach Catalina Milling wheat Key Features >Reliable main season milling variety (AH: SA & VIC, APW: WA & NSW) with high and stable yield potential >Excellent grain size & low screenings in tight finishes >Moderately resistant to stem rust with an excellent gene combination for durable resistance >Useful levels of field resistance to yellow leaf spot >Excellent CCN resistance & good resistance to leaf rust Hindmarsh Feed barley Key Features >Early maturity; best suited to low-medium (325-450m) rainfall areas >Semi-dwarf variety with excellent head retention & lodging resistance >Outstanding yield potential >Excellent grain plumpness, superior to Schooner >CCN resistant & good leaf disease resistance >Relatively "itch-less" to handle (due to short rachilla hairs) Nipper Red Lentil Key Features >Small seeded red lentil, similar size to Northfield >Mid to late flowering variety best suited to medium rainfall areas >Resistant to ascochyta blight & botrytis grey mould >Best combination of ascochyta & grey mould resistance currently available >Long term yield between Nugget & Northfield >Improved tolerance to salinity For more information, contact AWB Seeds on 1800 054 433 or visit our website www.awbseeds.com.au Protected by PBR. The products denoted with this symbol are subject to the Plant Breeders Rights in Australia. Unauthorised commercial propagation or any sale, conditioning, export, import or stocking of propagating material is an infringement under the Plant Breeders Right Act (1994). The material contained inthis advertisement is from official sources and is considered reliable. It is provided in good faith and every care has been taken to ensure its accuracy. AWB Seeds does not accept any responsibility for the consequences, which may arise from the acceptance of recommendations or suggestions made.
Ground Cover 071 November-December 2007 - North
Ground Cover 073 March-April 2008 - North