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Research is its key to success

March 19, 2010

Agri Plain Talk


December 2, 2009, 3:05pm

Research is the major key to success for Du Pont, a global company with various products used to meet every conceivable need, including agriculture. At the recent Asean Media Forum in Jakarta under the auspices of the company, Carl J. Lukach revealed that Du Pont invests about $1.4 billion a year on research and development in a diverse range of technologies for a broad range of markets from electronics to agriculture.

Du Pont has more than 8,500 technologists and engineers in its employ doing research. No wonder, the company is the owner of some 34,000 patents. This year, no less than 1,100 products have been applied for patenting.

In agriculture, Du Pont is well known for its hybrid seeds (corn, soybean and lately hybrid rice) under the Pioneer brand. It is also into research and production of chemical pesticides such as insecticide, fungicide and herbicide.

One blockbuster insecticide was launched in November 2007. This is called Renaxypur which is sold under the brandname Prevathon. It is considered very effective against sucking insects in rice and vegetables. It is also very environment-friendly since it has a very low mammalian toxicity.

In the Philippines, rice sprayed with Prevathon yielded 6.6 metric tons per hectare compared to 5.6 tons per hectare of the same variety that was not sprayed with the chemical. This was the result in 22 farm demonstrations in Isabela. Similar increases in rice yield was observed in Indonesia.

Prevathon is also used in vegetables. In 12 eggplant demonstration plots in the Philippines, farmers harvested an average of 56 percent more marketable fruits than plants not sprayed with the insecticide. Another potential blockbuster insecticide is expected to be launched in 2011. Called Cyazypyr, it has a novel mode of action. It is a systemic insecticide with low mammalian toxicity that controls both sucking and chewing insects.

One herbicide that is considered as another blockbuster in Indonesia is called Ally. This is a very affordable weedkiller that is effective in eradicating broadleaves in rice fields as well as in tree plantations. Only 20 grams of the chemical, worth $2, is used per hectare in rice. It is sprayed only once.

The beauty about this is that it a selective herbicide. While it will kill the broadleaves, it will not harm the rice plants.

Another version is called Ally Plus. This is a little more expensive but it kills broadleaves, sedges and grasses. About 320 to 480 grams of the chemical is used in one hectare of rice. These two formulations are not yet available in the Philippines.

Hybrid corn seed production is a major business of Pioneer Hi-Bred in Indonesia. Researchers in Indonesia have developed 27 corn hybrids since 1985. Only eight, however, are currently active in the market. There is a big potential market for hybrid corn in Indonesia. There are three million hectares suitable for corn production in that country. So far, only 1.3 million hectares are being planted to hybrid varieties. And of the 1.3 million hectares, about 380,000 hectares are planted to Pioneer seeds.

The company has a big operation in Malang, East Java. There it has a facility that used to have a 10,000 ton capacity but which has been expanded to 20,000 tons in October 2009. One variety that Priyandono Hadari, in charge of corn production, is proud of, is called P21. This is a high-yielding variety that is resistant to bacterial stalk rot as well as to drought.

Some 2,300 hectares are being devoted to seed production by thousands of farmers who till as low as 0.2 hectare to a little less than one hectare. Under the production scheme, the farmers are given free seeds to grow under the supervision of the Pioneer technicians. All the harvest are bought by Pioneer as freshly harvested ears. The yield may be as much as 20 tons of fresh ears per hectare. The farmers are paid 2,700 to 2,900 rupiahs per kilo of corn on the cob. That’s equivalent to about P14 per kilo in Philippine money.

That’s a profitable price for the grower. One farmer revealed that he spent 10 million rupiahs to grow seed corn on one hectare. After less than four months, he grossed 29 million rupiahs from his harvest for a profit of 19 million rupiahs. One US dollar is about 10,000 ruphiahs.

Pioneer hi-Bred is relatively new in the production of hybrid rice seed. However, regional business director Arun Baral says that in the whole of Asean, 34 to 35 million hectares are being planted to rice and only one percent is being planted to hybrid varieties today. That’s a huge market that Pioneer Hi-Bred is targeting.

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