International seed breeder comes to U.S.
Limagrain working on new hard red wheat and white wheat varieties
By MATTHEW WEAVER
With the arrival of the international seed company Limagrain, U.S. farmers will have access to new genetics, says the company's chief operating officer.
Currently, the U.S. market isn't very competitive and varieties tend to last for a long time, said Frank Curtis, Limagrain Cereal Seeds executive vice president and chief operating officer, located in Fort Collins, Colo.
But that may change.
"We think the rate of improvement of yield, field characteristics and disease resistance is going to increase, to the benefit of the farmers in the area," Curtis told the Capital Press.
Limagrain, an international agricultural cooperative based in France, specializes in field seeds, vegetable seeds and cereal products. Group Limagrain opened subsidiary Limagrain Cereal Seeds in July to serve as the company's national U.S. cereal seeds base.
"We're fully operational but still very small," Curtis said of the company's U.S. operations. "We're a farmer's co-op, so we tend not to have the massive amounts of capital for investment some of the competition does. We like to work by building slowly."
The company will focus on wheat research and market its seeds under the LG brand.
The company is bringing on breeders for various regions in the U.S. A breeder in Walla Walla, Wash., will come on board next spring.
Limagrain's research priorities are to produce for a marketing area, Curtis said.
Limagrain has partnered with several seed companies in important wheat regions across the U.S. in what Curtis termed a "strategic alliance," including Northwest Grain Growers in Walla Walla and Plant Breeders 1 in Colton, Wash.
The companies will give Limagrain access to house breeders and seed production facilities and in return get first call for distribution of Limagrain's varieties, as well as maintaining the opportunity to offer farmers a wide choice of varieties, Curtis said.
Dave Gordon, general manager of Northwest Grain Growers, which represents two of Limagrain's hard red varieties, said his cooperative handles Limagrain grain and provides seed to growers.
"Our job is to try to improve quality and yields through better seed varieties," Gordon said. "We have good seed varieties, but if we can continue to improve those, that's for the benefit of our producers."
Earlier this year, former Oregon State University wheat breeder Jim Peterson left his post to work for Limagrain as director of research. Gordon said Peterson's experience in producing varieties for Northwest farmers makes Limagrain a "player" in the Northwest.
Limagrain will offer the new hard red wheat variety Azimut next year, Curtis said. The company is also working on another hard red wheat and a white wheat for farmer release two years from now.
Limagrain will spend its first 18 months improving its physical resources in each area, such as equipment, Curtis said. The third and fourth year will allow for consolidation, to increase programs and deliver varieties to the market more quickly, he added.