The R & D and Manufacturing of the Seed Industry

Before we focus on the work of the plant breeder we should make sure we understand the two arms of the seed industry. New crop varieties must be developed and seeds of that variety produced in large numbers before a farmer can produce a crop with some new grain attribute. Plant breeders are the research and development arm of the seed industry. Their job is to discover the plant genotype that will express the desired traits in the farmer's fields. They must then provide their seed producer partners with the seed source that can be 'blown up'. This is seed industry language for starting with a few hundred seeds and through two or three generations of careful grow outs and harvests, having bags of seeds for distribution and sales to farmers. With self-pollinated crops such as wheat, the variety the plant breeder develops is the variety sold to the farmer. Hybrid seed is grown in crops such as corn and sorghum. In this case, the plant breeder discovers two parent lines that are crossed to make the hybrid. The seed producer grows the parent lines and produces hybrid seeds in their seed production fields. The farmer will only have new varieties that are worth growing when the plant breeder and the seed producer have done their jobs.