With so much riding on our producers’ abilities to meet the demands of the marketplace, and to deliver that crop at the highest possible quality, biotech-based seeds will play an integral role.
“Seed enhanced through biotech allows us to bring the best elements of plant breeding, research and end- use utility to market,” Flanley states. “Herbicide tolerant packages deliver a cleaner crop, and similarly disease and pest-resistant products deliver healthier grains with significantly reduced damage to the grain itself.
“Subsequently, with less competition from weeds, insects and disease, once you start stacking specific end-use traits on top of those protection packages, output quality and crop value is greatly enhanced,” she says.
Flanley says the advent of biotech crops and biotech-based research into the trait/performance packages of the future represents a long and laborious process — one which can take up to 15 years before it’s commercialized.
Flanley also remarks that with the ASTA celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2008, there’s been a great deal of reflection on just how far the industry has come and the various milestones witnessed during its lifetime.
“Our founders would have a hard time comprehending the technologies available today and really, we may be pretty amazed at what’s available in another 25 to 50 years,” Flanley admits. “We will probably see grain quality redefined and reevaluated on an entirely different standards than what we see today. Most likely, with an emphasis based on output performance characteristics more than the traditional yield or production attributes.”
As global attitudes continue to soften regarding the adoption of biotech-derived crops, quality could reap the greatest rewards as producers around the world begin reliably delivering consistently cleaner and healthier crops to food and feed customers.
According to CropLife International, more than 114 million hectares of biotech crops were grown in 20+ countries worldwide. As a result, longtime export partners whose previous reluctance over accepting biotech crops continues to modify — for example, Japan is now accepting biotech corn for food use, for the first time — may become significant drivers behind rapid biotech adoption.
Making the Precision Decision
Advances in seed technology and access to information are key pieces to the quality puzzle, but the picture wouldn’t be complete without finding a place for the contributions of precision ag technology and delivery systems.
From air seeding and planting equipment which delivers seeding for optimum plant populations; sprayers that use remote sensing and variable rate technologies to deliver precise herbicide application; and harvesting equipment which automatically adjusts to varying terrain, precision technologies have made advances equally as striking as those of the seed industry.
“In our view, one should not expect to sacrifice productivity to achieve enhanced grain quality; you simply cannot have one without the other,” says Roger Maes, product manager, Combines, John Deere Harvester Works. “Precision systems must be intuitive, functional and, above all, easy to operate. You can design the best tool but if it’s not easy to run, nobody will adopt it.”
For Maes grain quality is especially important as it is his harvesting equipment that last touches the crop before it leaves the field for storage, so he takes great pride in the grain which reaches the elevator.
“Advances in harvesting equipment have had a direct correlation to grain quality through controlling mechanical damage and reducing foreign material in harvested grains,” Maes says. “With better control of threshing-rotor speeds and real-time adjustments of cutting bar heights, we’re able to produce a much cleaner and more complete harvest operation.”
When asked what the biggest contribution precision systems have made to grain quality, Maes doesn’t hesitate. Ergonomically designed controls and ease of operation immediately come to mind.