We also have been working to more effectively engage crop consultants through programs offered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), formerly the Soil Conservation Service. Our national working group, co-led by Michigan State University since 2006, has been increasing participation in NRCS programs for IPM since 2006 (nrcs.ipm.msu.edu). In 2012, NRCS introduced a new IPM option for farmers to hire crop consultants to help prepare a plan to delay and avoid herbicide resistance. NRCS qualifies crop consultants as Technical Service Providers (TSPs), and more are needed. NRCS offers a new, one-day training for those interested in becoming TSPs and recently trained more than 100 consultants in Arkansas to prepare these plans. Financial assistance rates are $1,628 per plan for plans addressing 100 acres or less, and $2,730 for plans covering more than 100 acres.

Another example of innovations with potential applications in managing resistance include a pilot we initiated with collaborators in the Sandusky River Watershed in Ohio. There we are working with agricultural retailers to identify products and services that will reduce phosphorus losses from cropland and clean up the excess phosphorus problem in Lake Erie. Working with eleven retail locations and their farmer clients, we are creating a regional business plan to accomplish this goal. Could we apply this approach to resistant weeds?

Finally, we are working with food companies including Sysco, McDonald’s, a major national supermarket chain, and their supply chains to improve sustainability and maintain competitiveness in the face of mounting consumer and shareholder interest in supporting corporations who share their values. Best practices are identified and promoted, and adoption is tracked throughout large supply chains. Adjustments are made to improve adoption in specific focus areas. Managing herbicide resistance could be prioritized in these programs.

John Hamer, Venture Partner, Burrill & Company

Venture Capital and Innovation Investment in Agriculture

  • Total venture capital financing is down from its peak in 2000 at $99 billion to approximately $29 billion and continues to slowly decline. Overall venture returns are poor relative to other asset classes, with the 10-year returns falling below 4 percent. The result is that institutional capital is seeking other investment opportunities in alternative asset classes (buy-out, hedge funds, etc.). While there is some concern about this, the United States still leads the world in Venture Capital (VC) funding by a significant margin (around $29 billion) compared to other countries (generally less than $2 billion). Other regions of the world (Asia, Eastern Europe, South America) all see biotechnology and VC as a source of innovation for industry diversification.
  • Venture capital investment in the United States is highly skewed geographically, with more than $11 billion being spent in the San Francisco Bay Area (Silicon Valley). A vast majority of the life science VC money goes to healthcare/biotechnology ($5 billion), cleantech (around $5 billion), and internet/telecom/computers ($7 billion).


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