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Crop Tech Corner
Monday, April 21, 2014 12:55PM CDT

By Emily Unglesbee
DTN Staff Reporter

LAWRENCE, Kan. (DTN) -- This bi-monthly column condenses the latest in the field of crop technology, research and products.

WILD, WILD WHEAT

While rooting around in ancient grassy relatives of wheat, government scientists have located a gene that could control a wheat fungus that threatens up to 90% of the world's wheat. The fungus, Ug99 (Puccinia graminis), is a fast-evolving stem rust. It has plagued African and Middle Eastern wheat fields since its first appearance in Uganda in 1999.

U.S. wheat growers need to be on the watch too. USDA reports indicate seven existing mutations of Ug99 are able to easily overcome stem rust resistance genes that most of the world's wheat growers depend on. Conquests include resistance gene Sr24, which North American farmers favor, and resistance gene Sr36, which Great Plains growers rely on to protect their winter wheat. Researchers from Kansas State University and the University of California-Davis assisted USDA Agricultural Research Service scientists Matt Rouse and Yue Jin in their successful quest to pinpoint the location of the Ug99-resistant gene in 2013 in an ancient wheat species called einkorn wheat.

The discovery, which used cloning, "opens the door to the use of biotechnological approaches to control this devastating disease," the researchers wrote in their recently published study. Read more about the discovery in the original study here: http://goo.gl/… and from Kansas State University here: http://goo.gl/…

WARMING UP WHEAT

Syngenta's "Adding Cellulosic Ethanol" (ACE) technology will allow ethanol plants to squeeze more ethanol out of every kernel of corn. The new process converts the fiber in the corn kernel to cellulosic ethanol, in addition to the ethanol traditionally produced from the kernel's starch. Syngenta has licensed this new technology to Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies, which is a subsidiary of Quad County Corn Processors, an ethanol plant in Galva, Iowa.

Researchers from Kansas State, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, Cornell University and USDA are working with Poland to breed new wheat varieties using genomic selection, also called marker-assisted selection, which speeds up the breeding process. Breeders use genetic markers to select preferred traits, instead of waiting around for plants to express the trait physically. "The team will generate the largest public resource of elite candidate wheat varieties, along with seed and genetic information in wheat history," Poland said in the news release. "The wheat varieties generated by the project will have enhanced climate resilience, combining heat tolerance with heat avoidance (earliness), and maximized yield potential." See more on Poland and his team's efforts here: http://goo.gl/…

MAKING THE MOST OF MAIZE

Syngenta's "Adding Cellulosic Ethanol" (ACE) technology will allow ethanol plants to squeeze more ethanol out of every kernel of corn. The new process converts the starch in the corn kernel to cellulosic ethanol, in addition to the ethanol traditionally produced from the kernel's starch. Syngenta has licensed this new technology to Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies, which is a subsidiary of Quad County Corn Processors, an ethanol plant in Galva, Iowa.

According to the Renewable Fuels Association, the plant started building a new facility in preparation for using the ACE technology last summer. In addition to the 35 million gallons of ethanol QCCP produces a year, the new facility could churn out 2 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol when it comes online in May 2014. Read more from Syngenta here: http://goo.gl/…, and the Renewable Fuel Association here: http://goo.gl/….

BECK'S BRANCHES OUT

Beck's Hybrids, the country's largest family-owned commercial seed company, is launching a $60 million expansion to its Atlanta, Ind., headquarters. Company president Sonny Beck says the expansion will help them keep up with the seed company's most recent forays into Tennessee, eastern Iowa and eastern Missouri, according to a company press release. Beck's Hybrids' reach also extends to farmers in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, southern Michigan and western Kentucky.

Construction projects will include two 4,000-square foot greenhouses, four machinery storage buildings, and an expansion of the company's Biotechnology Building. Beck's also expects to add a soybean seed processing tower capable of producing 1 million bags of seed in the first year. The expansion, which is estimated to take three to four years, could also add 100 jobs to the 400 full-time employees Beck currently employs. See more in the company press release here: http://goo.gl/…

Emily Unglesbee can be reached Emily.Unglesbee@dtn.com

Follow Emily Unglesbee on Twitter @Emily_Unglesbee

(PS/AG/BAS)


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