Delta and Pine Land acquires Optimum GAT licenses

Delta and Pine Land Co. has purchased several licenses from Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., that could provide cotton and soybean producers an alternative to the technology that currently dominates the herbicide-resistant plant arena.

The licenses are for DuPont subsidiary’s Optimum GAT herbicide tolerance technology for cotton and soybeans. Delta and Pine Land has been experimenting with the DuPont subsidiary’s GAT technology for some time to determine its viability for southern crops.

The Scott, Miss.-based Delta and Pine Land also acquired licenses for other products developed by the DuPont biotechnology research program and certain enabling technologies for use in cotton, soybeans and other crops, the company said in a press release.

The Optimum GAT trait developed by DuPont will provide farmers with expanded weed control options and help optimize yield. This herbicide tolerance technology makes plants tolerant to both glyphosate and ALS herbicides, including sulfonylureas.

“We are pleased to build on our strategic plan by gaining access to these new and exciting technologies and expanding our partnership with DuPont,” said Tom Jagodinski, president and CEO of D&PL said. “We look forward to bringing our farmer-customers increased cotton and soybean technology choices, while adding a second herbicide tolerance gene to the DeltaMax joint venture.”

D&PL and DuPont, through its Pioneer Hi-Bred International subsidiary, are partners in a joint venture, DeltaMax Cotton LLC, which was initially formed to develop and commercialize glyphosate tolerance technology in cotton. Delta and Pine also announced it has reached an agreement to license soybean lines suitable for planting in the Southern soybean market through the involvement of Greenleaf Genetics LLC.

“We are excited that the world’s largest cotton seed company licenses Optimum GAT for cotton globally and soybeans in the United States,” said Erik Fyrwald, group vice president, DuPont Agriculture and Nutrition.

“This announcement validates our trait pipeline and Optimum GAT, extending the acreage served globally.”

“With today’s announcement, cotton farmers will now have access to a key new option for weed control that will help optimize yield,” said Dean Oestreich, Pioneer Hi-Bred International’s president said. “Pioneer is proud of its relationship with Delta and Pine Land and appreciates their commitment to the Optimum GAT technology.

“This also sets the stage for Delta and Pine Land to become a significant customer for Greenleaf Genetics LLC, a joint venture with Syngenta announced in April. Through Greenleaf Genetics, D&PL will license soybean lines and Optimum GAT for soybeans,” the president of the Johnston, Iowa-based Pioneer.

“Greenleaf Genetics will continue to work with other key independent seed companies in the near future to align strategies for both corn and soybean germplasm and traits and offer commercial terms on Optimum GAT.”

Optimum GAT is a new herbicide tolerance technology that makes plants tolerant to both glyphosate and ALS herbicides, including sulfonylureas. In April, DuPont announced an agreement with Syngenta granting them the right to use Optimum GAT in their corn and soybean products.

Steve Martin, an agricultural economist with Mississippi State University’s Delta Research and Extension Center, said the acquisition of the licenses could provide farmers more weed control options.

“Farmers are definitely going to be interested in this,” he said. “The question now will be its effectiveness.”

D&PL will pay DuPont $20.5 million in connection with this transaction and expects to account for it in the fourth quarter. Technology fee sharing for the Optimum GAT technology for cotton is essentially consistent with the existing terms in the DeltaMax Collaboration agreement.

D&PL plans to announce its earnings for its third quarter ended May 31, 2006 on Thursday before the market opens.

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