NCBiotech Launches Center to Commercialize New Crops

by 5m Editor
19 July 2012, at 7:52am

US - North Carolina hog producers and farmers could benefit from the launch of the Biotechnology Crops Commercialization Center.

The new crop commercialization center will target potentially valuable crops adapted to North Carolina's diverse soil, climate and agribusiness conditions. Its first project is the Swine Feed Project, to reduce swine feed imported to North Carolina, potentially through grain sorghum – a corn-like feed grain not typically grown within the state.

The project is funded by a $150,000, two-year grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation and $100,000 each from the North Carolina Pork Council and Warsaw, North Carolina-based Murphy-Brown, LLC , the livestock-production subsidiary of Smithfield Foods. Murphy-Brown i s the world's largest pork producer, feeding 17 million market hogs each year.

The state's animal industry uses about 300 million bushels of grain per year, while North Carolina farmers grow about 80 million bushels. That leaves a deficit of 220 million bushels.

"We need to reduce the calories coming into North Carolina by boat or train," said Terry Coffey, PhD, chief science & technology officer at Murphy-Brown. "Reducing our grain deficit requires a coordinated effort involving farmers, policy makers, and a wide range of partners."

Sorghum isn't as thirsty as corn and other grains, so it's better suited to the state's sandy soils. When farmers harvest sorghum in the fall, they can plant a second crop to overwinter and harvest in the spring. Finally, Murphy-Brown will buy the sorghum harvested by local farmers in the Swine Feed Project.

"This is a unique opportunity to implement meaningful steps toward making North Carolina's pork industry more self-sustaining," said Deborah Johnson, CEO of the Pork Council.

"This project will help expand business opportunities and reduce costs for both North Carolina farmers that grow crops and farmers that use crops for animal feed," said Dan Gerlach, Golden LEAF President. Golden LEAF provides grants from tobacco settlement funds to help economically affected or tobacco-dependent regions of North Carolina.

Heading the project is Alan Kriz, PhD, who led a team at Monsanto that maintained U.S. regulatory compliance for the company's field trials. He also worked for BASF Plant Science, Renessen, DEKALB Genetics and the University of Illinois.

"Alan is a key contributor to our initiative promoting development of new or improved crops statewide that we believe can boost the ag economy from the current $70 billion to more than $100 billion by 2020," said Gwyn Riddick, MBA, NCBiotech's vice president of agricultural biotechnology.

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