WAIMEA — The Corteva Agriscience plant DNA lab is abuzz with activity as Pioneer Seed Company celebrates 50 years in Hawaii this week, culminating in a Friday celebration on the Westside.
“At 50 years, we’re proud, coming from a humble history to the impact and technology that we have today,” said Tim Glenn, vice president of Global Seed Business Platform for Corteva Agriscience.
Corteva Agriscience is the agricultural division of DowDuPont and on Kauai is the arm that uses molecular breeding to develop and grow a variety of corn seeds and soybeans.
It’s part of a global network, part of the process that feeds new seeds into markets worldwide. Glenn says 90 percent of the corn varieties on the market, for instance, passed through Kauai at some point.
And the work that goes into a single variety could take around seven years to accomplish.
“From discovery or creation of the new inbred to the seed you’d sell to a farmer, it can take that long,” Glenn said.
When DuPont Pioneer began research in 1968 in Kekaha, scientists analyzed new plant varieties by growing them in the fields, learning what their progeny plants were doing as they matured.
Technology and data driven science have both kicked up a notch since then, and Corteva Agriscience scientists can now analyze the molecular structure of the plants, cutting down on the amount of land and the amount of time needed for their work.
“You don’t have to sort it out in the field,” Glenn said. “You increase your success rate and your rate of gain.”
Laurie Yoshida, communications manager for the Waimea Research Center, pointed out the molecular propagation process is different than what produces what’s known as the “GMO” seeds.
Shortly explained, genetic engineering (GMO) is when singled genes for new traits are given to a plant. Molecular breeding is the selective breeding of two parent plants to produce a desired progeny.
“The GMO labs are on the Mainland,” Yoshida said.
With ever-changing technology and a current $12 million project to enhance DuPont Pioneer’s Waimea Research Center and the former DuPont Pioneer Kekaha Parent Seed location, Glenn and Yoshida said the company is looking forward to a bright future on Kauai.
The expansion is triggering about 50 technical job openings, adding employees to their 140 personnel and community activities like the Harvest Festival and Relay for Life participation will continue to be going strong.
“We’re celebrating the past and looking forward to a bright future,” Glenn said. “The investments in Kekaha enforce a long-term commitment to Kauai.”