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New wave of crop products 'could solve food supply gap'

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Fears of world food shortages would be resolved if farmers could get anywhere near fulfilling the potential of seeds, which are producing far lower yields than they are capable of, the head of Plant Impact said.

Farmers have made significant headway in boosting yields, helped by improvements in both agronomic practices and crop inputs, John Brubaker, the Plant Impact chief executive, said, flagging the boost from 30 bags (1.8 tonnes) per hectare to some 50 bags per hectare in average Brazilian soybean yields over the past 30 years.

Even so, the average result is well short of the 90 bags per hectare that the "best growers" achieve.

And "good quality" Monsanto seed in theory "yields wall over 200 bags per hectare", equivalent to 12 tonnes per hectare - or more than 170 bushels per acre.

Missouri farmer Kip Cullers has achieved a soybean yield above 160 bushels per acre, while crop health group Stoller USA has claimed a result of 217 bushels per acre, achieved in Texas.

Strength in numbers

If farmers "improved their yields to those achieved by growers using best practice, it would solve the world's crop demand needs for the next 20 years", Mr Brubaker told the Agrimoney Investment Forum in London.

While farmers had up to now relied on agrichemicals and fertilizers to boost results, the kind of crop enhancement products being developed by Plant Impact and its peers represented a means to close the yield gap.

While Mr Brubaker acknowledged that Veritas, Plant Impact's flagship soybean yield enhancement brand, typically achieved a yield boost of 5-7%, applying a "portfolio" of such products would achieve stronger results.

Applying products which acted in developmental periods outside the flowering stage, where Veritas acts, would give farmers the "opportunity to get closer to the best growers in their results".

By Mike Verdin

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