Cannibalism in Spodoptera feeding on tomato – but don’t rely on spraying with jasmonic acid as an insect control just yet

Interesting article on cannibalism in Spodoptera feeding on tomato. The authors tested the hypothesis that induced defences benefit tomato plants by encouraging insects to eat other members of their species. They reported that defences which promote cannibalism benefit tomatoes in two ways: cannibalism directly reduces herbivore abundance and cannibals eat significantly less plant material. This is a previously unreported means of defence which offers food for thought on future insect control measures and plays on plant–herbivore dynamics. Find the article “Induced defences in plants reduce herbivory by increasing cannibalism” in Nature Ecology & Evolution.


Potential for resistance to leaf miner in tomato

While it may be some years off before a leaf miner resistant tomato variety is available, the recently published results of screening for resistance shows real promise. More details can be found by accessing the article (free access) from Peter Hanson’s group (AVRDC) in Plant Breeding (Screening recently identified whitefly/spider mite-resistant wild tomato accessions for resistance to Tuta absoluta).



😎Conducting a Seed Business (Myanmar): An introduction and overview of best practices on segmentation and variety evaluation

The Syngenta Foundation is running a course on Conducting a Seed Business. This course is an introduction to some of the basic mechanisms and tools used by the seed industry in the introduction and management of product lines. While the number and type of mechanisms and tools used vary, this course will introduce four of the most important and commonly used, variety segmentation, variety evaluation, product profiles and product life cycles.

The target participants are those active in or new to the seed industry in Myanmar including seed company representatives, seed distributors and seed producers as well as others aligned to the seed industry including field crop and vegetable traders and wholesalers, in addition to government representatives and industry related representatives and participants.

Participants will graduate from the course with an understanding of variety segmentation and its importance in managing a seed portfolio in addition to being able to prepare and maintain product profiles based on trials that they can organise and evaluate in farmers’ fields.

The course will run from Tuesday August 1 to Thursday August 3, 2017 at the Inya Lake Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar.

For more details contact Clive Murray (

(This course serves as the first in a series on conducting a seed business. Future courses will include other tools and processes commonly used by the seed industry in the evaluation and introduction of varieties within the crop focus of individual seed businesses including seed pricing, value added, crop diseases, R&D programs, seed production and storage, inventory management and marketing.)


Updates to website

There have been a few updates to the website where I’ve added some details on projects undertaken by AgConAsia in addition to some details on opportunities in the agriculture sector. More and more will be posted over time as I put the details onto the website. For more details on any of the projects/opportunities just contact me by email

Just to highlight a few.

Cambodia: there have been lots of proposed changes in the seed sector. AQIP was last year sold off (of sorts) to insiders in the Hun Sen regime and there are plans (have been for some years) to finally adopt the seed law. Also there are plans at restricting access to the seed sector from outside Cambodia (currently dominated by Vietnam and Thailand, especially rice).

Seed Sectors of Thailand, China and India: Review on this which offers some interesting challenges.

Uzbekistan: The one-crop cotton system in Uzbekistan is slowing changing but the research and development sector, both private and public, are lagging in support for diversification into alternative crops.

GMO’s? The genetically modified crop sector looks for a major change if the USDA-APHIS rule that Crispr-edited crops fall outside the regulatory environment. USDA-APHIS have already ruled that a mushroom falls outside the regulations and there are submissions from numerous Universities/Research Institutions and agri-companies for similar such rulings. It is a wait and see situation for the moment, at least for the US. Stagnation is still the situation for Europe and many other countries. China also has yet to finally decide, although an earlier ruling did not exclude them from regulation.



Monsanto Officially Rejects Bayer Bid


Monsanto has officially rejected the Bayer bid, at least for the time being. In a carefully worded statement the Monsanto board rejected the bid but left the door open for what would seem a better offer.

” … Board of Directors unanimously views the Bayer AG proposal as incomplete and financially inadequate, but is open to continued and constructive conversations to assess whether a transaction in the best interest of Monsanto shareowners can be achieved.”

“We believe in the substantial benefits an integrated strategy could provide to growers and broader society, and we have long respected Bayer’s business,” said Hugh Grant, Monsanto Chairman and CEO. However, the current proposal significantly undervalues our company and also does not adequately address or provide reassurance for some of the potential financing and regulatory execution risks related to the acquisition.”

So the bidding process will continue.


Bayer posts $62 billion bid to buy Monsanto


Is it a surprising move or not? Time will tell but the latest bid by Bayer for Monsanto is certainly interesting, not to mention the somewhat obscure reasons from Bayer behind the move – consolidation and “combine Monsanto’s No. 1 position in seeds and crop genetics with Bayer’s prowess in pesticides to create a truly global agriculture leader”. This sounds a lot like the mantra of Mike Mack in combining the chemical and seed businesses of Syngenta which was a complete disaster.

The unsolicitored bid comes just a few months after the sale of Syngenta to ChemChina, which was hot on the heals of a rather protracted failed takeover attempt from Monsanto resulting in the exiting of Syngenta CEO Mike Mack. The proposed deal includes assuming the $8 billion Monsanto debt.

The bid by Bayer has many hurdles to overcome from US regulators and is likely to take sometime to push through which, if you follow some of the reported comments (WSJ, Bloomberg), least of all the less than approving comments reportedly coming from Bayer shareholders who believe the debt created by Bayer in its bid will be just too much for the company to handle. Bayer are also saying that the final bid may cost 25% more as a result from takeover costs. Nonetheless it will be interesting to see what Bayer follows up with in pushing their takeover bid and whether parts of Monsanto will be scheduled to be sold despite their “holistic” comments. Bayer CEO is on record as saying that both the seed and GM businesses are an integral part of their future plans.

Finally, there is no comment from Monsanto on the bid, so the deal has a long way to go. Incidentally, while news of the bid have just surfaced in the last few days, the bid was actually rumoured some weeks back.



The on-going Syngenta saga – Mike Mack resigns

You would have seen last week the reports of Mike Mack resigning. While it seems that the reasons behind it are his arrogance for rejecting/not pursuing the sale of Syngenta to Monsanto, what’s more interesting is what other details of Syngenta’s activities over the last year were confirmed.

Firstly, Syngenta, through comments from its interim CEO, John Ramsay who was the CFO, that his priority for some time has been the packaging and sale of the seed division. While this has been widely known for many years it is really the first official confirmation. You would have seen about a month ago that Syngenta sold off all its traits to Limagrain, which signalled Syngenta’s exit from the mainly US based GM business. For the last few years Syngenta has been slowly selling off rights to many of its varieties.

Secondly, this all but confirms that the sale of Syngenta to Monsanto is a forgone conclusion given time for the current upheaval to subside.

What’s also interesting is that obviously Monsanto wasn’t interested in any of Syngenta’s traits, hence selling them off although Syngenta’s competitiveness in this area was somewhat poor.

Many will herald the departure of Mike Mack who some ten years ago started the downfall of the vegetable seed division through his idea of integration with chemicals, not to mention the total destruction of the flower business and what was Goldsmiths. Critics at the time were ignored with many making their departure from the remnants of a seed business which had been declining for some years under the hand-me-on stewardship of numerous takeovers.

It will be interesting to see who acquires the bits and pieces of the Syngenta vegetable seed and whether Monsanto opts to retain the field crops as part of its acquisition.


Not allowing comments on my blog

I’ve had a few emails regarding the site’s lack of opportunities to add comments. Well originally I did but I’ve since turned this function off for a few reasons. Firstly, if you did want to add a comment you can just email me. Secondly, it’s my blog for my consultancy company and I want to use it to reach out to the veg-seed community. Having someone else adding their comments is not fulfilling that function. Sure some of the comments have been very worthwhile and I fully appreciate the time and efforts of those concerned. I did use come of the comments to update some parts of the information I had (some of which I am still updating and have not returned to the site). And yes I can curate the comments beforehand, but that to me is akin to censorship so it is best not to have any comments at all. But one of the major reasons for not having comments was because of the spam, and yes I had blockers in force but they were not very effective. Literally for each post I put up there would have been a few pages of spam messages as comments every day. So in short, no comments, just email me.