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Archive Article: 1999/01/30

30 January 1999

BASF is stepping up its biotechnology investment. It has bought 40% of Swedish plant breeders Svalöf Weibull, whose subsidiaries include Semundo, and canola seed companies in Canada.

This follows the formation of two joint ventures: Metanomics, to determine the function of the plant genotype; and SunGene, incorporating and testing new genes in plants, which were announced by BASF in October last year.

BASF is targeting its biotechnology towards products that give a direct benefit to the consumer as well as the farmer in order to gain public acceptance of GM crops.

According to Claus Illing, BASFs head of products for agriculture in Central Europe, herbicide and insect-resistant GM plants "are not attractive to BASF".

Sales of BASFs soybean herbicides in North America fell significantly last year because of the widespread use of GM herbicide resistant varieties.

Instead, BASF envisages the development of a portfolio of GM plants with improved nutritional attributes including higher oil content in oilseed rape, and more amino acids in forage crops. Dr Friedrich Vogel, head of BASFs crop protection division, says: "We are focusing on food qualities that bring health benefits, for example food low in polyunsaturated fatty acids. Not much research has been done in this area so we are in a competitive situation."

BASF now has 40% of Svalöf Weibulls share capital. The biotechnology sections of both companies will be merged to create BASF Plant Science. Olle Hakelius, chairman of Svenska Lantmännen Riksförbund, which owns Svalöf Weibull, says: "We needed to go into biotechnology and Svalöf Weibull was too small by itself."

Mr Hakelius says he is "very happy" for BASF to own 85% of BASF Plant Science and for Svalöf Weibull to hold 15%. Svalöf Weibull made a pre-tax loss of DM4.5bn in 1997, but expect profits in 1999.

It is likely to be at least five years before BASF Plant Sciences GM crops are brought to the market. The company hopes that by that time the public will not oppose GM crops, and that the issue of licences for GM plants will no longer be a problem. Seeds are likely to become more expensive, justified by increased performance giving more commercial value.

BASF are on the prowl for other acquisitions to complement their existing biotech base, but theyre not abandoning research on herbicides and fungicides.

Dr Vogel says that improved crop protection agents will be "indispensable aids in meeting the rising demand" as world population increases. The company aims to launch two new active ingredients each year worldwide.

BASF arent the only late arrivals in plant biotechnology: Dow Chemical are hoping that use of a technique developed by Mycogen, the biotechnology company they bought for $500m, and their research alliance with Rhône-Poulenc, will enable them to develop new crops at lower cost than has been achieved by older biotechs.

APPROVAL for Falcon (propaquizafop) the graminicide used in broad-leaved crops, certain field vegetables and forestry is passing to Novartis at the end of January. The label remains unchanged under Novartis ownership; Falcon controls a wide range of grass weeds including volunteer cereals, blackgrass, wild oats, annual meadow grass in oilseed rape, linseed, sugar beet and pulses.

LODGING cost UK cereal growers an estimated £74m in lost yield and premiums according to BASF. The company calculated the figure using MAFF crop statistics. It based the national loss of £57m in wheat and £17m in barley on a survey of distributors and agronomists which estimated that 15% of the wheat crop and 12% of the winter barley crop suffered serious lodging last year.

ONE-hundred-and-thirty jobs will go at Zenecas factory in Yalding, Kent, over the next three years, with the first 60 redundancies in 1999.

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Archive Article: 1999/01/30

30 January 1999

Demand is outstripping supply

Demand for spring seeds is at an all time high – the wet winter has drowned out autumn drilling schedules. Gilly Johnson asks the seed merchants which names will be top of this springs shopping lists, and why.

IF YOU havent booked that spring wheat variety by now, it could be too late. Demand here and elsewhere in Europe is outstripping supply following problems with wet autumn seedbeds and delays to drilling schedules, says Dalgetys David Neale.

The wet European harvest didnt help. The quality of imported seed is not up to usual standards, a fact which has also capped the supply of spring wheat seed.

Under this pressure, some retail spring wheat prices have reached the heady heights of £400/t – which must make the spring wheat option look less appealing, says Mr Neale. "Faced with the high prices and shortages, some growers were buying Charger, Reaper or Binova triticale instead through January. "

Its traditionally a minor crop – in an average year the acreage tots up to only 18-20,000ha (44-50,000 acres); about 1% of the wheat area. This season the total could rise to 30,000ha (74,000 acres) – seed supplies permitting – but Mr Neale reckons that many growers are making a last minute switch to linseed or spring barley instead.

For those who are choosing spring wheat, quality potential is what counts.

Traditional top choice for milling quality has been Axona, which attracts high premiums of between £15-20/t. This variety is now outclassed in the 1999 Recommended List on account of low yield.

Market leader in the spring wheats is Chablis. Classed as a milling Group 2, premiums are lower (£10-12/t) but this is offset by the highest yield on the 1999 List. However, as a non-vernalisation, "alternative" wheat, Chablis would normally be drilled in the late autumn, post-root slot. The flexibility on drilling date – it can be sown in March and beyond – comes into its own following the wet autumn.

Samoa (CPB Twyford) is a new true spring variety which didnt make the 1999 Recommended List, due to concerns about sprouting, and a comparatively low hagberg score. But the millers are keen. It is already on Allied Mills list as a preferred top bread maker.

On the strength of milling demand, seed is being traded under buy-back contracts with Dalgety, BDR Agriculture and Allied. Samoa has excellent yield – on par with Chablis, according to the breeder, and is also exceptionally early. It matches, or is even earlier than Soissons. Might this have affected the sprouting score?

Theres some circumstantial evidence; data on sprouting was gathered from trials where irrigation may have been applied post-ripening. The crop was then harvested at the standard date, which may have been a tad late for Samoa.

Contracts for Shiraz, the specialist-use soft bread wheat are already fully-booked, according to David Waite of Allied Grain. Shiraz has found favour in the north, partly thanks to its robust hagbergs, which can withstand delayed harvests.

"Shiraz performed particularly well in 1998, even under the appalling harvest conditions in the north," says Mr Waite. "Both Shiraz and Samoa are attracting top milling premiums, on par with Axona."

Although seed is scarce as yet, new entrant to the Recommended List Paragon (PBI Cambridge) looks promising. The millers association NABIM is about to pronounce its verdict, but with a bread making rating of 8, predictions are that Paragon will challenge Axona on quality, with the bonus of more than 10% extra yield.

Group 2 milling wheat Imp (Nickerson UK) is now fully recommended, and has sold out. Old varieties Avans and Baldus have been dusted down and revived due to the scrabble for seed, and a small tonnage of these has been ordered, says Mr Neale. Raffles (CPB Twyford), a spring variety which didnt achieve recommendation, has only moderate milling quality but seed has sold on the back of the high demand for spring wheats.

BE WARNED – seed supplies are likely to run short.

The spring oat story is a repeat of the wheat scenario, due to problems with autumn drilling.

The spring oat market is small and localised; most is grown in the Scotland or the Welsh borders, with another focus in the south-west. Seed supply is tight and prices are rising; bookings are being taken at £300/t and more.

Theres a case to be made for spring oats, says Dalgetys David Neale: "Its potentially a low input crop and its also a white straw break. But quality has to be right."

This is why oat growers are a conservative bunch with their choice of variety – with no intervention support, the risk attached to the crop is greater. High kernel content and a bright appearance are needed for the human consumption, breakfast food market.

Two new quality varieties which should please oat processors are Revisor (Dalgety Arable) and Winston (Perryfield Holdings). The duo make their debut on the 1999 List as provisionally generally recommended, although Revisor has already been in the commercial marketplace for two years.

Revisor has the highest yield and longest straw – useful for livestock producers given straw shortages – but Winston has better disease resistance (including an 8 resistance rating for mildew) and higher specific weight.

Seed is available for both; C2 Revisor under buy-back contracts only, which gives growers security, says Mr Neale of Dalgety. Winston is offered as C1 seed.

Old favourite Dula – introduced 14 years ago – is likely to remain the market leader, thanks to buyers partiality, says Allieds David Waite. Early ripening, stiff Amigo (now regionally recommended for the north), Valiant and Aberglen should take a reasonable chunk of the market.

Drummer, which is promoted to fully recommended, is being sold on an exclusive basis by Glencore Grain UK and North-Eastern Farmers. Some demand for Melys, now moved to the outclassed category on account of low yield, will remain. Seed supplies of last years new varieties Sailor (excellent crown rust resistance) and Banquo are limited as yet.

"Theres not really that much to choose between the oat varieties on offer," says Mr Waite. "This spring it will rather be a matter of what seed growers can find…."

Spring naked oats are an option for the specialist grower. Yields are low and care is needed at harvest due to dust and chaff admixture, but a premium of 40% over a feed wheat and barley average price is offered. Only one spring variety is currently recommended – Bullion.

NORTHERN growers are likely to go a bundle on spring rape to fill gaps in the rotation – and its the high yielding, early fully restored hybrids that will take the lions share of the market, says David Waite of Allied Grain.

Early maturity is the major selling point in Scotland, with early vigour coming a close second. The high yield of the hybrid varieties is the icing on the cake.

"In Scotland weve found the hybrids to yield 3t/ha and over – more than might be expected from the Recommended List results. If anything, the official figures are an underestimate."

Mr Waite suggests that this disparity in the figures may occur because the variety trials for conventional and hybrid rapes are harvested at the same time. It means the early hybrids are over mature when combined, and so some yield is lost.

Many Scottish growers will turn to Hyola 38, the earliest hybrid, as the higher yielding and more vigorous alternative to turnip rape varieties Kova or Kulta, he suggests. "It matures within a day or two of these turnip rapes – and about two weeks earlier than conventional varieties."

Not quite that early, but early enough to bring combining forward by perhaps one week are sister hybrids Hyola 401 and this years new Recommended List entrant, Hyola 330. Both will be in hot demand, he says. Only a small quantity of Hyola 330 is available, but supplies of Hyola 401 seed are being brought in from Canada. "Hyola 401 has slightly stiffer straw than the Hyola 330, but theres little to choose between them."

"The Hyolas could take half the spring rape seed market," says Mr Waite. Prices are being held level with last year. On an area basis, hybrid seed works out at about £59/ha (£24/acre) – £15/ha (£6/acre) more than for conventional spring rape seed.

In England, Hyola 38 will be the best option for patching gappy autumn crops thanks to its earliness, with Hyola 401 featuring strongly but as a crop on its own.

Composite hybrids – varietal associations or mixtures similar to Synergy – are also on offer, namely Concept, Corsair and Triolo. Concept and Corsair include two pollinators with the sterile hybrid, to improve the reliability of pollination in all conditions. Triolo has later maturity. All these varietal association types face tough competition from the fully restored hybrid types, he says.

"Restored hybrid Superol looks a good package in that its early and high yielding, but there have been some seed production problems and theres only a small amount of seed around."

Of the conventional varieties, high yielding and early Maskot and consistently reliable Aries will lead demand, he predicts.

ITS the star attraction of the spring break crops. Linseed is in hot demand; traders are predicting that the area drilled could be twice last years total of about 70,000ha (170,000 acres).

The sums stack up for linseed, thanks to the highest area aid payments of all supported crops. With payments for harvest 1999 standing at about £490/ha (£198/acre), depending on the green rate on 1 July 1999, and the new crop linseed market holding firm at the £105/t level, the crop is an attractive option for this season at least.

But come harvest 2000 everything changes; the CAP reform under Agenda 2000 will cut linseed aid dramatically by nearly £80/ha (£80/acre) when the single rate becomes payable for all combinable crops excepting pulses.

Leading variety this spring remains Barbara, which will take half the seed orders, says Julie Goult of Dalgety. Its a consistent variety with large seed and good standing power. "Antares and Flanders are also selling well, with 15-20% of the market. Next in line are Jupiter and newer variety Agristar, which has gained some ground but it is later maturing and this may have deterred some growers."

Although promising new varieties have made their debut on the spring linseed Descriptive List, seed supplies are limited, says Ms Goult. Oscar (Nickerson UK) shows an enormous leap forward on yield performance; results for Symphonia (Dalgety Arable) are also exceptionally promising, she says, but the NIAB list figures are not as startling. "Its a shame that these new varieties will not be available in any quantities this spring. They will arrive on the market just a year too late."

Seed prices are holding at similar levels to last spring. Depending on variety, orders are being taken at about £1-1.10p/kg, which includes seed treatment for flea beetle. The cheapest varieties tend to be the older types such as Norlin, Flanders and McGregor.

The most popular varieties will run short, says Ms Goult. "There will be enough seed to satisfy the market – its just that people may not be able to buy the particular variety they want. With Jupiter and Barbara, it could be a struggle to find seed."

For growers who have been unable to sow winter linseed because of wet conditions, the good news is that seed can be drilled right up until spring – at least in areas south of the Wash. "Winter linseed sown in spring may reach maturity just a little later than some of the true spring varieties."

Dalgety trials have shown that although winter linseed sown in spring may appear to be reaching maturity earlier than spring linseed, in fact the crop holds on to moisture longer and so harvesting tends to be a week or so later than varieties like Barbara.

But watch seed rates with spring-sown winter varieties, says Ms Goult. "Treat it like a spring crop and drill at a lower seed rate: 600-700 seeds a square metre, instead of the autumn rate of 750-800 seeds."

She remains optimistic about the future for linseed post Agenda 2000.

"The linseed area will come down, but under the new regime there will be more buy backs on offer to maintain UK supply of linseed. That will generate some premium potential. And with the new higher yielding varieties, the economics could still stack up."

Last year the area down to Linola type varieties, for edible oil, was at 13,000ha (32,000 acres). Buy back contracts will be available this spring, but it is not certain whether £20/t premiums will be maintained for harvest 1999.

New spring wheat and spring oat varieties for 1999

Variety NIAB treated Breeder/ Profile

yield rating agent

WHEAT

Paragon 103 PBI Cambridge Awarded a provisional general recommendation this year, Paragon promises excellent milling quality with high yield. Good disease resistance and all those grain quality characteristics needed in a potential Grade 1 bread wheat. Seed supplies limited.

Samoa n/a CPB Twyford Failed to win a place on the 1999 Recommended List due to sprouting problems, but millers are keen on its super milling quality, and Samoa is already on Allied Mills preferred list. Buy- backs on offer. Very early maturing, no disease weaknesses, stiff straw. Yield on par with Chablis, according to breeder.

OATS

Revisor 107 Dalgety Arable Top of the new Recommended List for yield. Is similar to parent variety Dula. Longish straw, good grain characters including kernel content. Some susceptibility to mildew. Available on buy- back contracts.

Winston 104 Perryfields New high yielding entrant to the 1999 Recommended List. Easy-

care variety – excellent disease resistance and short, stiff straw; excellent grain characters including very high specific weight and kernel content, low screenings.

New spring rape varieties for 1999

Variety NIAB Breeder/ Profile

economic agent

rating*

Corsair n/a Semences Early maturity varietal association similar to Concept, in that it Cargill has two pollinator varieties with a sterile hybrid to improve the re liability of seed set. Higher yielding (2-3%) than Concept, which has an economic performance rating of 106. A candidate for Recommended List next year but is being marketed early.

Hyola 330 109 Advanta The latest from the Canadian Hyola stable of varieties, this high Seeds UK performance restored hybrid leads the pack on yield and eco nomic performance thanks to high oil content. Weakish but super short straw, and early flowering and maturity. Small quantity of seed available.

*economic rating includes a factor for oil content

New linseed varieties for 1999

Variety NIAB economic Breeder/ Profile rating* agent

(yield rating)

Laser 98 (97) John Very stiff strawed.Moderate Turner maturity similar to Barbara. As with Linus, appears to do well in wetter seasons.

Linus 97 (96) John Very small seeded variety Turner with moderate maturity, similar to Barbara, and moderate straw stiffness. Lola 100 (101) Cebeco New edible oil variety.

Seed Very stiff strawed, later

Innovations maturity (similar to Coniston). Large seeded.

Oscar 119 (119) Nickerson Super high yield a

UK breakthrough in linseed

breeding from France? 13% ahead of next variety down. Maturity a touch late. Reasonably short and stiff. Seed supplies limited.

Symphonia 105 (105) Dalgety Again, a French variety.

Arable Good all rounder with high yield and early maturity, similar to Flanders. Standing power not as good as Barbara. Oil content is low. Seed limited.

*economic rating includes a factor for oil content

New spring pulse varieties for 1999

Variety NIAB yield Breeder/ Profile

rating agent

PEAS

Agadir 104 Nickerson UK Super stiff semi-leafless white pea, similar to Eiffel in height, mat- urity and ease of combining, but with higher yield and the bonus of pea wilt resistance. Good resistance to downy mildew.

Croma 105 Cebeco Seed New recommendation with the highest yield on the list.

Innovations Semi-leafless white pea with similar maturity to Eiffel,

but is short and not quite as stiff. Resistant to pea wilt and downy mildew. Limited seed available.

Jackpot n/a Daltons of High yielding tall strawed white pea, similar to Eiffel

Peterborough in that is very stiff strawed and easy to combine.

Excellent resistance to downy mildew.

Nitouche 100 DLF Trifolium Large blue pea with top marks for standing ability and ease of combining despite tall straw. This variety is even stiffer than Eiffel or Espace. Also boasts excellent resistance to downy mildew, but is susceptible to pea wilt. Micronising premium potential. Limited seed available.

Supra 82 Cebeco Seed Semi-leafless marrowfat which is much easier to manage

Innovations than Maro, easier to combine and better standing ability.

Slightly better against downy mildew than Maro but this disease will need watching. Very large seed size – early indications are of cautious approval from canners and processors.

SPRING BEANS

Goldrush 96 Advanta Provisionally recommended for special use thanks to its pale

Seeds UK golden colour and white hilum – so has a potential market for human consumption and export. Yield is slightly below Victor, but is shorter strawed and equally stiff. Similar maturity to Scirocco ; better downy mildew resistance.

Lobo 103 Perryfields New entrant which comes in sharing top yield position with Quattro. Good resistance to downy mildew; long straw, reason ably good standing power. Similar maturity to Scirocco.

SPRING bean seed is, for once, selling well – with prices similar to last year at £300-315/t. Favourite varieties are Victor and Scirocco, which between them will take over half the market, says Julie Goult of Dalgety Arable.

Export premiums are "not huge – between £5-10/t." New variety Goldrush could slot into this market with potential for human consumption in the Middle East, thanks to unusual golden colour and white hilum. Small quantities of seed will be available this year.

Lobo is the other newcomer. Like Maya, its a variety which may sell better in the west for home-grown feed rations.

Whether home-saving or buying in seed, make sure its tested for ascochyta and stem nematode, says Ms Goult..

The specialist tic bean and pigeon pea sector, led by Maris Bead but also including maple peas such as Setchey, is somewhat depressed due to oversupply, so premiums over feed for tic beans are not as high as they were. Watch out for a host of new maple pea varieties including Courier, Racer and Swift – which are easier to grow but may not match the quality of the traditional maple pea Minerva.

"Its a small market and the imports have been coming in from Canada and New Zealand. Premiums could fall, so beware – Id recommend a buy-back contract on maples. We may see £20-30/t for the 1999 crop, rather than the £40-50/t premium of last year. "

First seed sales with peas went to the marrowfat premium varieties. "Some Maro may still be available, but new variety Supra, Progreta and Princess have sold out." With premiums of up to £70/t last year, demand has been high for buy-back contracts.

Then buyers looked to the large blues and the possibility of micronising premiums of about £10/t. Dalgetys figures suggest that the top sellers are Elan, Espace and Lantra taking over from old favourite Solara. Seed is limited of new large blue variety Nitouche.

With the white peas, Eiffel leads the way. High yielding new entrants Croma and Agadir are only available in small quantities this spring. Very early maturing and stiff-strawed semi-leafless white pea Bison is expected to sell out in Scotland.

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