Seed companies reassure farmers on canola supply

Seed companies use the recent Canola Industry Meeting in Saskatoon to promise farmers that the crop remains a priority for them.  |  File photo

Industry has undergone massive changes, but firms promise that research and development into new traits will carry on

Seed companies are eager to let Canadian growers know that canola remains a priority for them after a tumultuous couple of years of mergers, acquisitions and swapping herbicide-tolerant systems.

That was the message that all of the major players delivered at the recent Canola Industry Meeting in Saskatoon.

Kerry Freeman, canola category leader with Corteva Agriscience, said Canada is the third largest country in Corteva’s portfolio, and canola represents the number one growth opportunity in Canadian agriculture.

“Canola is going to get a lot of attention from Corteva from a global perspective,” he said.

Corteva is the agriculture division of DowDuPont.

Freeman said the merger unites Dow’s strength in canola output traits and germplasm with DuPont Pioneer’s prowess in agronomic and disease-resistance traits.

“There’s lots of technology coming,” he said.

Brent Collins, North American canola seed marketing manager with BASF, said the company has big plans for its newly acquired Liberty Link canola business, a system that accounts for nearly 60 percent of the canola grown in Canada.

“The commitment to investment is there. It starts with superior genetics,” he said.

“BASF is 100 percent committed to the superior genetics platform.”

The company plans to mesh the breeding and agronomy attributes of its InVigor business with its strength in developing new chemistries.

The company plans to introduce a handful of new active ingredients between 2020 and 2025 including two fungicides, one herbicide and an insecticide, all in the advanced discovery phase of development.

“I have been in the industry for many years starting on the chemistry side and I have never seen a pipeline like the organization has today,” said Collins.

“It’s a really comprehensive package that we believe that we can (use to) further evolve InVigor.”

Christopher Anderson, canola research and development portfolio manager with Bayer, said Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto has created a company that will spend $2.5 billion annually on agriculture R&D.

“We have created a scale that we have never seen before in agriculture,” he said.

“That scale is really important when we think about the many challenges we face in agriculture.”

Anderson said the company has almost tripled its R&D footprint in Western Canada over the last five years.

“The commitment of Bayer towards canola in Western Canada has never been stronger,” he said.

The company will soon be coming to market with its TruFlex canola, which contains the second generation of Roundup Ready technology. It is awaiting approval by Chinese regulators.

“We continue to see advances in that process, so we are cautiously optimistic that we will get the opportunity to bring these products forward,” said Anderson.

The company hopes to commercialize dicamba-tolerant canola by the middle of the next decade.

Andy Andrahennadi, senior hybrid breeder with Nutrien Ag Solutions, said the world’s largest fertilizer manufacturer and crop input retailer also operates a canola-breeding program out of Saskatoon and Horsham, Australia.

“We have a strong focus on yield and yield stability and superior agronomy,” he said.

The agronomy work includes clubroot and blackleg resistance, as well as maturity and pod-shatter-resistance traits.

Van Ripley, North American canola development lead at Nuseed America, said there are a lot of new names in the seed business. Nuseed is a new company to Canada.

The Australian firm has more than a 50 percent share in Australia’s canola market and is now attempting to make inroads in Canada.

It has been testing its extensive collection of Australian germplasm in Western Canada for a few years in an attempt to develop locally adapted varieties.

The company will be leveraging its “excellent blackleg resistance” from its Australian program, as well as a novel source of clubroot resistance.

It will also focus on oil traits such as its omega-3 trait that produces canola oil rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is one of the healthy oils in fish meat.

The oil will be used in the aquaculture industry as a replacement for wild fish oil. About 2.5 acres of omega-3 canola containing 12 percent DHA will produce the same amount of DHA as 10,000 wild fish.

Janice Duguid, senior canola breeder with DL Seeds, said the European-owned company is a straight breeding company. It doesn’t develop traits but instead licenses them from other companies to put into its own germplasm.

The company distributes its products in Western Canada through Canterra Seeds and BrettYoung Seeds.

DL Seeds operates four breeding facilities in Western Canada and has 24 field testing locations.

“We are probably the only commercial canola breeding program in Western Canada that has not endured a name change in the last 10 years,” she said.

The breeding program is focused on disease resistance, yield and standability.

“Our hybrids are known to be one of the best (standability) standards in the marketplace,” said Duguid.

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