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Agricultural Dialog - A society grown from seed - April 2012

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Seed breeding – the technique that enables us to encourage desired garden plants – ranks alongside farm mechanization, irrigation, chemical fertilization and crop protection as one of the most important innovations ever to impact agriculture and society. The science of seed breeding was not so much invented as borrowed from nature, to produce modern seeds used in conventional and organic cultivation alike

Agricultural Dialog - A society grown from seed - April 2012

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INFORMATION FROM THE AGRICULTURAL INDUSTRY | APRIL 2012




AGRICULTURAL DIALOGUE 16
                                                                                  EDITORIAL




                                                                                  Dear Readers,
                                                                                  Seed breeding, especially today, is one of
                                                                                  the most fascinating and misunderstood
                                                                                  areas of agriculture. As a science it sits at
                                                                                  the very heart of the history of agriculture

                                                                                  species from hunter gatherers to farmers.

                                                                                  has been at the revolutionary forefront


A society grown from seed                                                         the development of community, health,
                                                                                  fertility and learning due to its contribution
                                                                                  to nutrition. As such, seed breeding has
                                                                                  always been a visible result of our ability to
                                                                                  innovate. Future regulatory developments
and reservoirs, in a pattern as natural as night following day. If we look even   need to ensure that we continue to support
                                                                                  innovation and growth in this increasingly


Seed breeding – the technique that enables us to encourage desired                In this edition of the Agricultural Dialogue
                                                                                  we tell the story of the radical development
                                                                                  and impact of seed breeding, as well
garden plants – ranks alongside farm mechanization, irrigation, chemical
fertilization and crop protection as one of the most important innovations        provided for society. We are hugely grateful
ever to impact agriculture and society. The science of seed breeding was          as ever for the contribution of our expert
not so much invented as borrowed from nature, to produce modern seeds             interviewees, including Prof Dr. Jacobsen
used in conventional and organic cultivation alike.                               at the Wageningen University and Abelardo
                                                                                  Hernández from the Association of Fruit
The evolution of plant species from one generation to the next is a               and Vegetable Producers in the Region of
natural phenomenon. No two members of a plant species are genetically             Murcia, Spain.


characteristics. Genetic variation can also be caused however by exposure
to soil minerals, local water conditions and sunlight in a process called
mutation.                                                                         Markus Heldt
                                                                                  President, Crop Protection Division, BASF SE
AGRICULTURAL DIALOGUE 16                                                                                                2



From domestication to early breeding


Settled populations started selecting and domesticating edible plants.
This process of selection and unconscious cross-fertilization of

like potato, wheat, rice, cotton, apples and strawberries.



purposefully exploit seed breeding techniques to develop new crop




disease resistance and low input requirements.                               Did you know?
Induced mutation / Mutagenesis                                                Mutation is a naturally occurring
                                                                              process that is part of plant evolution

radiation and chemical baths to simulate the activity of the sun, soil        In nature mutations occur at an
minerals and water conditions, seed breeders learned to diversify             average rate of 1 per 1 million, meaning
genetic variability within their seeds more rapidly (Mutagenesis).            that you need vast populations and
Greater variety led to the more rapid discovery of naturally occurring        testing programs to discover new traits
traits that might otherwise have taken many hundreds of plant
                                                                              Targeted radioactive mutation of
generations to encounter.

                                                                              alternative process for achieving new
                                                                              crop traits. It was motivated by a desire
However, searching for random mutations remains a long process.


                                                                              we eat today is the result of mutation,
                                                                              including organic food. FAO estimates
Directed mutagenesis
                                                                              (including rice, wheat, grapefruit,
Directed Mutagenesis is a generic term covering several techniques that       lettuce and many fruits) have been
enable seed breeders to encourage a targeted gene mutation in a plant.        developed using mutagenesis
This process, being an advanced form of induced mutation (Mutagenesis),
                                                                              In beer production, yeast, barley
usual genetic variability, integrating no external DNA.                       and hops have all been improved by
                                                                              mutagenesis. Seedless fruits such
                                                                              as grapes and oranges are another
  Plant Breeding - overview
                                    A naturally occurring change in
         Mutation
                                                                              Innovation is crucial to support the
                                    Intentionally induced mutations           continuous development in plant
       Mutagenesis
                                 (e.g. through radiation or chemicals)        breeding

                            A targeted mutagenesis through molecular tools
   Directed Mutagenesis


       Plant Biotech
                                      integration of external DNA




overcoming challenges like new and emerging diseases and marginal
soils, the step-by-step progress of breeding techniques has provided
INFORMATION FROM THE AGRICULTURAL INDUSTRY | APRIL 2012                                                                      3



                                                                              About Prof. Dr. Jacobsen

                                                                              Prof. Dr. Evert Jacobsen is a professor
                                                                              in plant breeding, especially on genetic


                                                                              started his career at the Max Planck
                                                                              Institute in Cologne and graduated from
                                                                              the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Bonn.


                                                                              of   Genetics    of   the    University   of


                                                                              full professor at Wageningen University.

                                                                              He was the founder and director of the


                                                                              Plant Sciences, which is now one of the
                                                                              top graduate schools in the Netherlands.
                      Prof. Dr. Evert Jacobsen, professor in plant breeding
                                                                              He was the director of the department on
                      and former research director of Wageningen Plant
                                                                              Plant Sciences and later CSO of the Plant
                      Sciences in the Netherlands, discusses modern
                                                                              Sciences Group of Wageningen UR.
                      plant breeding.
                                                                              He was a member of the Dutch COGEM

                      techniques?

                                                                              and a member of the Committee on

per year. Another reason is that disease resistance can be broken in          honoured in China with the National
existing varieties which have to be improved in new varieties which after
                                                                              Award    on      Technical     International
a breeding process become new seeds. In greenhouse horticulture,
                                                                              Collaboration.

micro-climates because of higher humidity. Such adaptations have to
be partly formed by breeding new varieties.
                                                                                                TIMELINE



A new development in the Netherlands is the stimulation of breeding
for organic agriculture. Organic farmers are confronted with additional
problems because of the restrictions on using synthetic agrochemicals

be overcome by breeding more robust varieties. More breeding under
these organic circumstances needs to be done.
In addition, new seed disinfection methods were developed, which are
now also used in regular seed production. In general, it can be said
that the best varieties for current agriculture are also the best under
organic conditions. It must be stated that selection, with organic
cultivation can also bring new yield potentials for current agriculture,
as has recently been seen in a commercial sugar beet breeding
program under both organic and conventional conditions.


consumers?



consumers refused Dutch tomatoes because they had no taste. This
triggered quality breeding for taste, resulting in varieties of many
AGRICULTURAL DIALOGUE 16                INFORMATION FROM THE AGRICULTURAL INDUSTRY | APRIL 2012                                  4




normally results in a bitter taste. However, selection reduced this
problem with the appearance of extra-mild tasting varieties.                                              Abelardo Hernández
Plant breeding techniques also help with the potential occurrence of                                      is a technical expert at
                                                                                                          PROEXPORT (Asso-
cadmium contaminated soils where, for example, wheat is grown.
                                                                                                          ciation of Producers
Humans and livestock are exposed to such a heavy metal due to the                                         and Exporters of Fruits
uptake into the plant and subsequent transport into the kernel which                                      and Vegetables in
is the basis of many food products. In wheat, genetic variation has                                       the Region of Murcia,
been found to reduce uptake of this compound into the grain kernel.                                       Spain)

the risk of ingestion of such compounds into our bodies.                            Q: What challenges does seed breeding
                                                                                    help farmers overcome? Today, specialist
And for sustainability?                                                             seed breeders work to improve agricultural
                                                                                    crops, but genetic selection has always
A recent example is the breeding of salt tolerant wheat in Australia,
which is allowing growth of this crop on more salty soils. Salinity, at             means of maintaining and improving crop
                                                                                    performance in the face of new threats. The
                                                                                    ongoing process of breeding new strains
breeding with Triticum monococcum as a new gene source for this trait.              through the years has led to almost all crop
                                                                                    attributes being improved and disseminated
Have we reached a point where we have enough varieties, or is                       worldwide in seeds. These alterations have
further innovation a constant necessity?                                            helped farmers to overcome diseases and
Variety improvement is an ongoing need in plant breeding. Clear                     environmental conditions that jeopardized
                                                                                    crop viability, as well as maximizing yields
statements from politicians could be a real help to prioritise the
                                                                                    and improving food quality. One example,
innovations which are needed in the short and long run. Climate
                                                                                    amongst thousands, of the agronomic
change, sustainability, necessary yield gain, a bio-based economy
and food quality improvement are a few items steering future variety                development of mildew-resistant spinach.
breeding in almost all crops. New developments in plant breeding are
highly needed to master future problems in order to be able to feed                 Q: How important is seed innovation for
                                                                                    growers? European farmers know how to
proper way.                                                                         maximize the quality and yield of a planted
                                                                                    crop, but their success will always be
What are the drivers behind innovation in plant breeding?                           limited by the quality of the seeds planted.
                                                                                    Expecting farmers to produce the biggest
Business and science development. Competition, but also balance
                                                                                    and best quality yields without access to
between open and Intellectual Property protected systems is needed                  the best seeds would be like expecting
                                                                                    them to produce cantaloupe melons from
future food production worldwide. Innovation in plant breeding is                   galia melon seeds. Constantly adapting
based on science which is stimulating necessary changes. There must                 weather patterns and disease threats make
                                                                                    seed innovation vital not just to improve
                                                                                    agricultural production but to maintain it.
for plant breeding.
                                                                                    Q: Can you give us examples of when
                                                                                    seed breeding has delivered consumer
                                                                                                 Seed breeding is the unseen
                                                                                    driver behind all of the improvements that
                                                                                    have been made to agricultural crops,
          IMPRINT                                                                   creating the expansion of available varieties.
                                                                                    There is a wide range of new products
     BASF SE                                Rainer von Mielecki                     bred to meet consumers desires, such as
     Agricultural Center Limburgerhof       AP/K – Public/Government Affairs        yellow kiwis, seedless watermelons, smaller
                                                                                    melons, tomatoes that last longer, easy-to-
     AP/K - LI555                           Phone: +49 (0) 621 / 60-27 511
                                                                                    peel mandarins, sweet pink grapefruits and
     67117 Limburgerhof                     Fax: +49 (0) 621 / 60-27 512            asparagus and potato varieties that are
     Germany                                rainer.mielecki@basf.com                available all year round.



     www.agro.basf.com                      Responsible Editor: Tassilo Galitz
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Agricultural Dialog - A society grown from seed - April 2012

  • 1. INFORMATION FROM THE AGRICULTURAL INDUSTRY | APRIL 2012 AGRICULTURAL DIALOGUE 16 EDITORIAL Dear Readers, Seed breeding, especially today, is one of the most fascinating and misunderstood areas of agriculture. As a science it sits at the very heart of the history of agriculture species from hunter gatherers to farmers. has been at the revolutionary forefront A society grown from seed the development of community, health, fertility and learning due to its contribution to nutrition. As such, seed breeding has always been a visible result of our ability to innovate. Future regulatory developments and reservoirs, in a pattern as natural as night following day. If we look even need to ensure that we continue to support innovation and growth in this increasingly Seed breeding – the technique that enables us to encourage desired In this edition of the Agricultural Dialogue we tell the story of the radical development and impact of seed breeding, as well garden plants – ranks alongside farm mechanization, irrigation, chemical fertilization and crop protection as one of the most important innovations provided for society. We are hugely grateful ever to impact agriculture and society. The science of seed breeding was as ever for the contribution of our expert not so much invented as borrowed from nature, to produce modern seeds interviewees, including Prof Dr. Jacobsen used in conventional and organic cultivation alike. at the Wageningen University and Abelardo Hernández from the Association of Fruit The evolution of plant species from one generation to the next is a and Vegetable Producers in the Region of natural phenomenon. No two members of a plant species are genetically Murcia, Spain. characteristics. Genetic variation can also be caused however by exposure to soil minerals, local water conditions and sunlight in a process called mutation. Markus Heldt President, Crop Protection Division, BASF SE
  • 2. AGRICULTURAL DIALOGUE 16 2 From domestication to early breeding Settled populations started selecting and domesticating edible plants. This process of selection and unconscious cross-fertilization of like potato, wheat, rice, cotton, apples and strawberries. purposefully exploit seed breeding techniques to develop new crop disease resistance and low input requirements. Did you know? Induced mutation / Mutagenesis Mutation is a naturally occurring process that is part of plant evolution radiation and chemical baths to simulate the activity of the sun, soil In nature mutations occur at an minerals and water conditions, seed breeders learned to diversify average rate of 1 per 1 million, meaning genetic variability within their seeds more rapidly (Mutagenesis). that you need vast populations and Greater variety led to the more rapid discovery of naturally occurring testing programs to discover new traits traits that might otherwise have taken many hundreds of plant Targeted radioactive mutation of generations to encounter. alternative process for achieving new crop traits. It was motivated by a desire However, searching for random mutations remains a long process. we eat today is the result of mutation, including organic food. FAO estimates Directed mutagenesis (including rice, wheat, grapefruit, Directed Mutagenesis is a generic term covering several techniques that lettuce and many fruits) have been enable seed breeders to encourage a targeted gene mutation in a plant. developed using mutagenesis This process, being an advanced form of induced mutation (Mutagenesis), In beer production, yeast, barley usual genetic variability, integrating no external DNA. and hops have all been improved by mutagenesis. Seedless fruits such as grapes and oranges are another Plant Breeding - overview A naturally occurring change in Mutation Innovation is crucial to support the Intentionally induced mutations continuous development in plant Mutagenesis (e.g. through radiation or chemicals) breeding A targeted mutagenesis through molecular tools Directed Mutagenesis Plant Biotech integration of external DNA overcoming challenges like new and emerging diseases and marginal soils, the step-by-step progress of breeding techniques has provided
  • 3. INFORMATION FROM THE AGRICULTURAL INDUSTRY | APRIL 2012 3 About Prof. Dr. Jacobsen Prof. Dr. Evert Jacobsen is a professor in plant breeding, especially on genetic started his career at the Max Planck Institute in Cologne and graduated from the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Bonn. of Genetics of the University of full professor at Wageningen University. He was the founder and director of the Plant Sciences, which is now one of the top graduate schools in the Netherlands. Prof. Dr. Evert Jacobsen, professor in plant breeding He was the director of the department on and former research director of Wageningen Plant Plant Sciences and later CSO of the Plant Sciences in the Netherlands, discusses modern Sciences Group of Wageningen UR. plant breeding. He was a member of the Dutch COGEM techniques? and a member of the Committee on per year. Another reason is that disease resistance can be broken in honoured in China with the National existing varieties which have to be improved in new varieties which after Award on Technical International a breeding process become new seeds. In greenhouse horticulture, Collaboration. micro-climates because of higher humidity. Such adaptations have to be partly formed by breeding new varieties. TIMELINE A new development in the Netherlands is the stimulation of breeding for organic agriculture. Organic farmers are confronted with additional problems because of the restrictions on using synthetic agrochemicals be overcome by breeding more robust varieties. More breeding under these organic circumstances needs to be done. In addition, new seed disinfection methods were developed, which are now also used in regular seed production. In general, it can be said that the best varieties for current agriculture are also the best under organic conditions. It must be stated that selection, with organic cultivation can also bring new yield potentials for current agriculture, as has recently been seen in a commercial sugar beet breeding program under both organic and conventional conditions. consumers? consumers refused Dutch tomatoes because they had no taste. This triggered quality breeding for taste, resulting in varieties of many
  • 4. AGRICULTURAL DIALOGUE 16 INFORMATION FROM THE AGRICULTURAL INDUSTRY | APRIL 2012 4 normally results in a bitter taste. However, selection reduced this problem with the appearance of extra-mild tasting varieties. Abelardo Hernández Plant breeding techniques also help with the potential occurrence of is a technical expert at PROEXPORT (Asso- cadmium contaminated soils where, for example, wheat is grown. ciation of Producers Humans and livestock are exposed to such a heavy metal due to the and Exporters of Fruits uptake into the plant and subsequent transport into the kernel which and Vegetables in is the basis of many food products. In wheat, genetic variation has the Region of Murcia, been found to reduce uptake of this compound into the grain kernel. Spain) the risk of ingestion of such compounds into our bodies. Q: What challenges does seed breeding help farmers overcome? Today, specialist And for sustainability? seed breeders work to improve agricultural crops, but genetic selection has always A recent example is the breeding of salt tolerant wheat in Australia, which is allowing growth of this crop on more salty soils. Salinity, at means of maintaining and improving crop performance in the face of new threats. The ongoing process of breeding new strains breeding with Triticum monococcum as a new gene source for this trait. through the years has led to almost all crop attributes being improved and disseminated Have we reached a point where we have enough varieties, or is worldwide in seeds. These alterations have further innovation a constant necessity? helped farmers to overcome diseases and Variety improvement is an ongoing need in plant breeding. Clear environmental conditions that jeopardized crop viability, as well as maximizing yields statements from politicians could be a real help to prioritise the and improving food quality. One example, innovations which are needed in the short and long run. Climate amongst thousands, of the agronomic change, sustainability, necessary yield gain, a bio-based economy and food quality improvement are a few items steering future variety development of mildew-resistant spinach. breeding in almost all crops. New developments in plant breeding are highly needed to master future problems in order to be able to feed Q: How important is seed innovation for growers? European farmers know how to proper way. maximize the quality and yield of a planted crop, but their success will always be What are the drivers behind innovation in plant breeding? limited by the quality of the seeds planted. Expecting farmers to produce the biggest Business and science development. Competition, but also balance and best quality yields without access to between open and Intellectual Property protected systems is needed the best seeds would be like expecting them to produce cantaloupe melons from future food production worldwide. Innovation in plant breeding is galia melon seeds. Constantly adapting based on science which is stimulating necessary changes. There must weather patterns and disease threats make seed innovation vital not just to improve agricultural production but to maintain it. for plant breeding. Q: Can you give us examples of when seed breeding has delivered consumer Seed breeding is the unseen driver behind all of the improvements that have been made to agricultural crops, IMPRINT creating the expansion of available varieties. There is a wide range of new products BASF SE Rainer von Mielecki bred to meet consumers desires, such as Agricultural Center Limburgerhof AP/K – Public/Government Affairs yellow kiwis, seedless watermelons, smaller melons, tomatoes that last longer, easy-to- AP/K - LI555 Phone: +49 (0) 621 / 60-27 511 peel mandarins, sweet pink grapefruits and 67117 Limburgerhof Fax: +49 (0) 621 / 60-27 512 asparagus and potato varieties that are Germany rainer.mielecki@basf.com available all year round. www.agro.basf.com Responsible Editor: Tassilo Galitz