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Kansas Wheat Innovation Center

Wheat Scoop #1719: Syngenta Hybrid Wheat Initiative Gains Momentum

May 26, 2011
Dustan Ridder is hybrid wheat breeder for Syngenta Cereals’ AgriPro Wheat near Junction City.
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Farmers around the world will need to produce enough wheat by 2050 to feed 9 billion people, meaning global wheat production must increase dramatically in the next four decades.

Wheat breeders have made dramatic improvements to wheat varieties in the nearly 12,000 years since wheat was discovered in the Fertile Crescent region of northern Africa. One source of improvement that has eludedwheat seed companies, however, is an economic means of commercializing hybrid wheat.

Syngenta believes it has the solution. Through its AgriPro wheat brand, Syngenta Cereals launched a hybrid wheat initiative a year ago, believing wheat hybrids could potentially outyield pure line wheat varieties by 10-15%.

Dustan Ridder, hybrid wheat breeder for Syngenta Cereals, says development of elite hybrid lines allows the company to focus on improving yield first, then adding ancillary traits such as disease and insect resistance. But, since hybrid lines cost more to produce, there must be an economic advantage for farmers to pay a premium for hybrid wheat seed.

“I’m fairly confident in our ability to come up with hybrids that yield very well, it’s just a matter of producing them efficiently. We’ll need some time to develop that system,” Ridder says.

Syngenta has gained valuable logistical experience with a successful hybrid barley program in Europe, which uses a unique production system that Syngenta believes can be successful in the U.S., too.

Ridder believes by the end of this decade, Syngenta’s first hybrid wheat lines will be released to the public. Meanwhile, Syngenta remains devoted to the development of pure lines of wheat seed, Ridder adds.

“The best pure line varieties make for the best hybrid parents. Even if hybrids have the success we think they’ll have, we’ll be selling varieties for a long time. The programs work well together,” Ridder explains. “We’re actually increasing the number of lines we’re testing in our pure line variety program too. We’re fortunate Syngenta has put a large investment in wheat. We think we can take that, run with it and make some gains.”

At its Associate meeting in March, AgriPro Associates not only learned more about the hybrid wheat program,; they also learned more about two new varieties:

* SY Gold is a “high-input, intensive management” Hard Red Winter variety for western and central Kansas. Although susceptible to the latest race of stripe rust, this can be managed with fungicide application if necessary. It is resistant to leaf rust and possesses very good straw strength. SY Gold should be readily available for planting this fall.

* SY Wolf will be available to farmers in 2013. It is intended for areas north of I-70 into South Dakota, and contains good resistance to septoria, tan spot and powdery mildew. It does not feature any Jagger genetics.

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