"Syngenta in Action" Event
Monday, August 29th, 2011
The Syngenta in Action event held in July attracted more than 150 U.S. and Canadian retailers, distributors, seedsmen and researchers to Spokane, Wash. Participants were immersed in two days of interactive education about root-health-related topics and solutions, innovative seed treatment performance and the new Syngenta crop strategy.
The event featured industry-expert-led presentations and a subsequent hands-on field tour that delved into the cereals market, from varietal breeding to food manufacturing.
"Hearing the product information is important, but going to the field and seeing firsthand that it performs in the field is what's most important, and that's what we'll do here," remarked Chad Shelton, Seedcare asset lead, Syngenta, as he set the stage for the two-day event.
Spotlighting Root Health
Hosted by the Syngenta North America Region, the event focused on root health in cereals, which touches nearly every aspect of production. As the anchors and support of the plant, roots serve an important function in increased crop productivity but to date have not received much research attention. Syngenta aims to change that through partnerships with researchers around the world and events, like the one in Spokane, aimed to increase awareness of the importance of root health.
"We must take a holistic view of the plant, including the roots," said Christian Schlatter, global business manager, Syngenta. "By developing a better understanding of the roots, the industry will be able to offer farmers better solutions."
Attendees learned that root health is critical to effective water and nutrient management. Healthy root systems produce healthier, stronger stems and foliage that can better withstand environmental stresses. However, root pathogens and insects below ground impact the roots' ability to deliver resources to the growing plant. This, in turn, threatens stand establishment, crop growth, crop quality and, ultimately, yield.
"Root hairs are something you cannot underestimate because they increase the surface area for water and mineral absorption, but they are extremely vulnerable, typically only living a couple days," explained Kiran Shetty, Ph.D., technical brand asset lead, Syngenta. "If they are exposed to some of these pathogens like Rhizoctonia and Pythium, you are bound to lose some of the functionality of that root. These are very important parts of a young seedling that is trying to establish itself underground."
Challengers Impacting Root Health
Researchers from the United States and Canada provided attendees with a glimpse of key pest challenges that impact root health - Rhizoctonia and wireworms. These topics were also in response to feedback from invitees about key production challenges they face.
University of Guelph Research Associate Melody Melzer discussed how her three-year research project is shedding new light on a disease that for years researchers were aware was present in the soil. Until recently, the full impact of Rhizoctonia Anastomosis Groups (AG) on seed development and plant emergence was not fully understood. To complicate matters, AGs come in many strains, such as 2-1, 2-2, 3, 4 and 8. Each of these impacts different plants in different ways.
Tim Paulitz, Ph.D., research plant pathologist, USDA-ARS, Washington State University, and his research associate, Kurt Schroeder, Ph.D., further elaborated on the pervasiveness of the disease by discussing their research findings. In the United States, AG-8 is a strain of Rhizoctonia solani, causing bare patches in the fields. Since its symptom of causing spear tipping of the roots occurs underground, it is very difficult for growers to detect.
"Rhizoctonia destroys the cells in the root, which provides a rich habitat for the fungus," Paulitz explained. "The seedling may die. Many plants survive the infection, but the roots are significantly affected and cannot absorb nutrients, resulting in reduction in yield."
Not only do diseases impact root health and stand establishment but also soilborne insects like wireworms. A world-renowned leader in wireworm research, Bob Vernon, Ph.D., with the Canada-based Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre, discussed what he's learned during his annual wireworm surveys he started in 2004. Wireworms differ greatly in their habitat, size, feeding patterns and susceptibility to insecticides. Populations of this pest can be found as high as 3 million wireworms per hectare and attack most economic crops.
"Wireworms are attracted by carbon dioxide," Vernon explained. "So as wheat germinates, wireworms will cue in on that carbon dioxide trail and move in to feed. What we've found in the lab is that large wireworms can easily consume two or more seeds, and they also eat roots and other growing parts later on. So once they've polished off one seed, they'll move to the seed next to it. So you can end up losing the entire crop if the population is high enough."
During the field day, industry experts dug up samples and further elaborated upon the symptoms of wireworm, Rhizoctonia, true loose smut and rust infestations. The impact from these pests was quite apparent in the untreated crop, while the seeds protected by Syngenta technology fared better. The field day also showcased the performance of sedaxane, a new fungicide seed treatment in development from Syngenta, in regards to defense against Rhizoctonia and true loose smut, root health and stand establishment.
Progress Through Innovation
The focus on root health reflected the commitment Syngenta has to innovation, performance and value, a theme carried throughout the event and reflected in its new crop-based strategy.
"There are going to be other factors that play a role in root health as well...genetics, additional products, fertility," Shelton elaborated. "Syngenta is committed to developing strong partnerships today and in the future by listening to our customers, providing products that perform, delivering products that create value at the grower level and investing in a pipeline driven by innovation."
By beginning with research and development, followed by renewed emphasis on disease control, wireworm management and improving hybrid technology, Norm Dreger, head of Cereals, Syngenta North America, explained that Syngenta will be better equipped to help resolve local and global challenges.
Some of the key innovations Syngenta showcased included:
• Hybrid and double-haploid breeding efforts
• Sedaxane fungicide seed treatment
• Quilt Xcel fungicide
• Trinexapac plant growth regulator
• Axial Star herbicide
"All of this technology combined will allow Syngenta to bring a much stronger, more integrated and relevant solution to growers," Dreger said.
In addition, Syngenta is collaborating with companies like ConAgra to ensure the end product meets the needs of consumers. Glen Weaver, director of product quality and technical services with ConAgra Mills, provided a broad overview of the food industry, including insights into what consumers are looking for, and how wheat can play a part in that. He pointed out consumption of whole grains are increasing at 10 percent plus per year in a time when overall annual consumption of wheat-flour-based foods are down.
"When we look at how to revitalize wheat-flour-based foods, we have to determine how we appeal to the millennial generation," Weaver elaborated. "What can we do differently in snacking? How do we connect to consumer preference, emphasis on colors and texture, convenience of hand-held products? What are we going to do differently to thrive, to innovate, to drive the velocity of products? We have to be able to identify, have insight, have ideas and have impact to have innovation."
Resulting feedback from attendees illustrated both the agenda and format resonated well. The conference provided a unique opportunity for leaders in the North American cereals market to learn more about root health, an emerging topic that will become increasingly important to delivering enhanced crop productivity, as well as innovations Syngenta is pursuing in the cereals market.
"That was probably the best meeting I have ever been to," commented John Merkel, Ag Link, Inc., Reardan, Wash. "I loved the format - one day in the classroom teaching us about it, followed by one day in the field showing us what we learned hands on. That was so much better than doing just one or the other. I learned a lot doing it that way and would highly recommend utilizing that format again."
Thorough engagement in the Syngenta in Action event enabled distributors, seedsmen, retailers and researchers to affirm the need for a closer look at root health, as well as solidified the commitment of Syngenta to the cereals market.
"We created a unique atmosphere to introduce a new active ingredient, showcase a complete Syngenta portfolio and position Syngenta as a strategic partner," Shelton said. "Having a technical session followed by a field tour that put into action the Syngenta portfolio helped customers have a realistic, educational, see-and-touch experience. We were able to bring to life things that really matter to our customers - innovation, performance and value. Their unsolicited positive responses are proof this format resonated with them."
For more information about us, visit www.farmassist.com, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Syngenta is one of the world's leading companies with more than 26,000 employees in over 90 countries dedicated to our purpose: Bringing plant potential to life. Through world-class science, global reach and commitment to our customers we help to increase crop productivity, protect the environment and improve health and quality of life. For more information about us please go to www.syngenta.com.