Chinese farmers will have access to more corn genetic technology starting next year. Stine Seed Company has long kept relations with China, and recently sealed their relationship through a collaborative agreement with Bejing W. Seed.
“We’ve been making end roads in the Chinese market for about five years now,” says David Thompson, Stine director of sales and marketing. “It’s an emerging market, from a retail perspective the book is still being written on what that market potential is—but we know it’s high.”
China is leaps and bounds behind U.S. farmers when it comes to cultivating corn and soybeans—even though soybeans originated from the country. While Chinese farmers can access machinery and precision technology easier, genetic advancements in the crops themselves are harder to acquire—that’s where Stine hopes to make changes.
“China is adapting to cultural practices rapidly—they’re not to the point the U.S. is, but in advanced management software and drones they’re making significant progress,” Thompson says.
“We’ve have collaborated to do testing and trial work on hybrids,” Thompson adds. “We had to find out if we even had material that worked.”
The country not only has a different climate, but different management techniques that effect how well Stine’s hybrids perform. For example, higher population corn is common in the U.S., while Chinese farmers have only begun to consider that technique.
“Our partnership with Bejing W. Seed is exciting because Chinese farmers will gain access to a new source of genetic material they haven’t had before—and it gives us an outlet for material that doesn’t fit the U.S. market,” Thompson says.
Since China is more willing to import soybeans and seeks self-sufficiency in corn, Stine will focus efforts on improving corn production first. “We test and evaluate about 20,000 genetically unique hybrids every year,” Thompson says. “Out of the 20,000, only two or three dozen ever see commercial production.”
Like many genetic companies the idea is create as many options as possible, test them and keep only the best performers. Thousands of hybrids potentially go wasted, so to stretch efforts further those seeds will be tested in the Chinese environment to see what can be used. In some cases, U.S. and Chinese farmers could be planting the same seed as some hybrids perform across a broad number of environments.
In the Chinese environment, both farm size and condition, varies greatly, Thompson says. It’s a huge country with diverse climates, but more challenging perhaps is how fragmented Chinese farmers are. There are large-scale, state-owned farming operations that farm tens of thousands of acres and about 250 million small farmers that might own one acres of land. In the middle are “quasi-private” farm operations that are owned by the state, but operated by entrepreneurial managers similar to that of a 1,500 to 2,000 acre U.S. farmer.
This collaboration isn’t totally unproductive for U.S. farmers either, he adds. “We think it’s beneficial to the U.S. farmer because whatever we can do to draw better relations with one of our biggest grain purchasers is a good thing.
“We think we can create a better environment for U.S.-China relations and help drive and expand our breeding programs as well—which means we are likely to find even better material for farmers globally,” Thompson says.
The deal was signed in November with President Donald Trump as well as representatives from 29 additional companies in attendance with the intent of strengthening political ties and generating billions of dollars in trade deals. Stine is a leader in creating and licensing corn and soybean genetics domestically and this deal marks the company’s biggest step in the global landscape.