By Dr Antony Jarvie, Podsquad Pty Ltd (Independent consultant to Corteva Agriscience)
The restrictions on gatherings and movement associated with the COVID-19 pandemic came at a time when agronomists around the country were getting set to demonstrate the new products for the 2020/21 planting season to the agricultural community. The agile Pannar Seed marketing team sensibly captured the essence of their field demonstrations on video before lockdown, for us all to view from the comfort of our own living rooms.
Having watched the videos for myself and seen the data prepared for the extravaganzas, I am very impressed with the way that the Pannar brand has chosen to group their soybean varieties into Growth Classes. The conventional way of categorizing cultivars is using the international Maturity Group (MG) scale. In South Africa, the applicable Maturity Groups are MG 4 through to MG 8 and this method can accurately be used to describe the cultivar per se. The problem with this description in South Africa is that cultivar adaption patterns broach the Maturity Groups. To give an example, if you wished to choose the best MG 5 variety, you would inevitably land up selecting a variety which has a relative maturity group of MG 5.8 or MG 5.9 which is very nearly a MG 6. Having set out to choose a cultivar from the earlier side of the spectrum, you will be drawn by adaptation patterns into choosing a variety that is more in the medium growth class. Pannar has very cleverly stepped around this issue by consolidating the MG 4.5 to MG 5.4 groups into a growth class called Early, the MG 5.5-MG 6.4s into Medium and MG 6.5 to MG 7.4s into Late. The difference in maturity between a MG 5.9 and MG 6.0 remains unchanged, but the break between the Growth Classes set up by Pannar places the crossover from one Growth Class to another in the correct place in the MG scale. It simplifies the characterization of cultivars and makes cultivar choice easier. Bravo!
As always, Pannar has an amazing range of soybean cultivars. In my opinion, the cultivar range is anchored by an exceptional product. PAN 1521R has dominated the market in a way that only PAN 1664R and Prima have done in our past. For the brand, the cultivar range has the correct mix of old and new cultivars, which is an important consideration if you are to drive genetic gain and still maintain stability and familiarity in the market.
Last year the brand decided to retire two cultivars, PAN 1454R and PAN 1623R. In the case of the aged PAN 1454R, it was a brave decision because they did so without a direct replacement for this product. With re-organization related to the implementation of Growth Classes, PAN 1454R indirectly made way for PAN 1555R in the cultivar range. The retirement of PAN 1623R was a particularly courageous decision because the variety was still commercially competitive, but the brand needed to make space for PAN 1663R and PAN 1644R.
How I see the new additions to the Pannar range
The way that Pannar has positioned the Medium Growth Class, roughly half of the national soybean crop needs to be produced by this Growth Class of soybean. PAN 1521R currently does a sterling job in delivering a large part of the national crop but strategically, this is too large an area to commit to a single genotype. PAN 1555R has stepped off the bench to assist. It has a strongly branched architecture and is well suited to tough environments and unpredictable weather conditions. PAN 1663R also falls into the Medium Growth Class but has a role at the higher potential end of the production spectrum. It has great standability and can tolerate the high plant populations associated with irrigated environments.
PAN 1644R entered the Pannar range at the expense of PAN 1623R. There are always regrets when you lose a good cultivar by choice, but I can say quite confidently that PAN 1644R more than replaces PAN 1623R. It is versatile, and it can perform in all the production regions. You may ask why this is necessary if you only farm in one area, but it is this versatility that allows the variety to endure unseasonal and unexpected weather conditions that climate change is increasingly presenting us with.
What does the pipeline hold?
At the extravaganzas, you would likely have been introduced to two new varieties that Pannar put into limited strip testing this year, and by my estimation these should be about a year away from commercial launch. The brand looks to be concentrating immediate efforts on bolstering the earlier spectrum of its commercial range, as it already has impressive firepower in the later half. PAN 1479R is a true MG 4 that will fill the void left by PAN 1454R in the Early Growth Class. PAN 1575R is expected to bring ruggedness and strong vegetative growth to this sector. PAN 1575R is much like PAN 1555R, but several days quicker to maturity.
Looking still deeper into the pipeline
I have had the privilege of working on a very exciting new soybean project for the Corteva group in South Africa, which includes both seed and crop protection products. The CE3 project involves the deregulation of a new transgenic soybean trait package combined with the deregulation of associated new herbicides. The deregulation is a rigid process: It is a slow, meticulous and costly procedure and it cannot be hurried by the fact that we are really excited by its prospects. Multi-year, multi-location data are a standard requirement for responsible release in new environments, but the good news is this process is already firmly underway.
CE3 combines two insect resistance genes with three herbicides genes in a transgenic stack that is on the leading edge of this technology. If the deregulation happens as planned, South Africa will be in the market with this stack even before some of the major soybean trading countries. One of the reasons that this project was even considered for South Africa was because of the promise of an end-point royalty (EPR). Despite the soybean production area in South Africa having swelled to around 700 000ha in recent years, for all practical purposes the seed industry has been catering to an unsustainable seed market equivalent to around 120 000ha - due to farm-saved-seed. The EPR has taken twelve long years to materialize, but the collateral effects of its implementation have already stimulated research that will place the country in the forefront of global soybean development with CE3 and other technologies.
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