Beck's Blog

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CropTalk: Your Friendly Beck’s Corn Breeders

May 2019

Published on Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Beck's breeding program began in 1976 with Kyle Smith and a 500- row nursery. Today, there are about 90 people involved in the program, and breeding and testing Beck's genetics occurs around the globe. There is a Beck’s breeding nursery being pollinated every day of the year thanks to the addition of our greenhouse facilities, our Hawaii nursery, and global cooperations, which extend to Central and South America, Europe, and the Southern Hemisphere. For today’s breeders, it’s always summer somewhere.

At Beck's, our regional product selection strategy means that breeders cater to one specific area. Our breeders can form relationships with farmers — the true customer of a corn breeder. What would be separated by layers of bureaucracy and red tape at another company is accessible at Beck's. Today, we'd like you to get to know your friendly neighborhood corn breeder, and invite you to come say "Hi" in the Biotech building at Becknology™ Days.

To introduce our breeding group, which has a cumulative 124 years of breeding experience between us, I'll start with our newest addition, Todd Frank, PhD. Todd just opened our Olivia, MN, site to help Beck's move into the northern Corn Belt.

The state of Iowa is home to two of our breeding programs and our Marshalltown, IA, facility. Todd Piper, PhD, focuses on the western half of Iowa. Todd brings a vast knowledge of maize genetics and reliably builds high-yielding, consistent performing hybrids that can take on the rigors of western Iowa.

Leading the charge in eastern Iowa is Tony Maves, PhD. Tony is a “show me the money” kind of guy with a goal of enhancing profits and improving a farm family’s success with hybrids that meet the challenges of the future today.

Moving eastward into Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Southern Michigan is Steve Becker, PhD. Steve is our “eye in the sky” breeder who is leading the development and implementation of drone technology into our breeding program. Steve is the guy to catch at Becknology™ Days if you want to discuss the role of emerging technologies at both the breeding and farm level.

Our breeding efforts for southern Indiana and Ohio are headed up by Christine Tiskevich, PhD. Christine is a breeder with an “eye to the future” and a goal of identifying new breeding tools and implementing novel genomic approaches into our breeding pipelines.

Steve, Christine, and I (G. Keith Rufener II, PhD) are stationed at our Atlanta, IN research facility. The best way to describe my group is we are “competing to be your choice” in central and southern Illinois. What drives our group is Beck’s choices. We not only get to compete within our own breeding community, but we also get to compete with the other major breeding efforts in the industry to produce the hybrid of your choice. We utilize our in-house breeding tools and strong relationships with external partners and suppliers to push modern breeding into the future with genomic strategies and advanced computing (A.I.) approaches.

So what differentiates Beck's team of breeders from the rest of the industry? I had the opportunity to connect with a family at Becknology Days. They wanted a tour of our research department because their daughter was going into her senior year in high school and was interested in genetics and science. As I introduced them to Beck’s breeding, I realized their daughter and I were kindred spirits. I was surprised at how much she had learned in her advanced classes at school and she was surprised at how much of what she had learned about was taking place in the very building we were standing in. She was able to hold a 55K SNP chip in her hand and we talked about how we were using the 55,000 pieces of genetic data at the single nucleotide basis that this chip could generate on an individual plant. It was the highlight of my week.

However, I quickly realized that the two happiest people in the building were her parents. While my kindred spirit and I were discussing the science of my day and what technologies, not yet invented, would await her in the future, they got to see the light of the future shine in their daughter. In my opinion, this is exactly what makes Beck’s breeders different.

You are one conversation, one connection away from being on the cutting edge of breeding with your area breeder from Beck’s. By asking a question at a field day or taking a tour at Becknology Days, you can find your own breeder and be a part of the future choices in your own fields. After all, all of the Beck’s breeders are Farmers at Heart™.

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Author: G. Keith Rufener II, PhD

Categories: CropTalk, 2019


G. Keith Rufener II, PhD

G. Keith Rufener II, PhD

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