Seed companies invest billions in R&D annually to bring new genetics, traits and more to your farm. We want to introduce you to a few of the faces behind the innovations. Learn more about their story and the challenges they face. Here's the second of an eight-part series.
David Becker’s roots run deep in Texas dirt. His family has farmed cotton in the Lonestar state since the early 1920s and the farm is still active today.
While he isn’t on his family’s farm everyday any more, Becker finds himself on dozens of family and research farms across the U.S. He serves as BASF’s head of seed breeding where he works with cotton, soybean, wheat and other oilseeds globally.
“I have a lifelong appreciation for ag and got an agronomy degree at Texas Tech, and later a Master’s and PhD at Texas Tech,” Becker says. After graduating, he started his career with BASF’s predecessor companies before joining the company in 2001.
“It’s always rewarding to see the product of our work in research out in the field and working for growers—that’s what makes this so fun for me,” he says. “I’ve had the opportunity to bring new traits and varieties to the market and that’s without a doubt the most rewarding part of this job.”
While he’s from a farm and holds a deep understanding of what farmers do every day, Becker recognizes that most of the general public doesn’t have that same background. He says misconceptions about ag will be one of the greatest challenges of this generation.
“We need to improve the perception of modern ag because public perception and influence will greatly affect what technology we can, or cannot, bring to the market,” Becker explains. “It will even affect what technologies we can use to create products.”
Evolving technologies could be under threat from misplaced fears from consumers. He points to gene editing technology such as CRISPR. Europe regulates the technology like it does genetic engineering, even when no foreign genes are introduced into the plant. This could limit a promising technology, he says.
“One of the biggest things coming to ag technology is the routine application of genome editing because of the speed and prevision it will bring to crops,” Becker says. “Genetic improvement has been slow in the past, but with gene editing technology we’ll be able to make targeted changes in a single generation. We still have technical and social challenges, but this has great potential.”
Becker is ready to rise up and meet the challenges of tomorrow.
“I learned this from my father, ‘hoe to the end of the row,’ –get the job done,” he says. “He was a hard worker and I learned a lot from him on the farm that I apply to my life today.”