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‘The right hybrid for every acre’: Assembling the social worlds of corn and soy seed‐selling in conventional agricultural techniques

Comi, Matt
Sociologia ruralis 2019 v.59 no.1 pp. 159-176
agronomists, business enterprises, corn, farmers, genetic engineering, hybrids, interviews, marketing, seeds, soybeans, Kansas, Missouri
This article looks to better understand seed‐selling assemblages between top‐10 agricultural companies and conventional farmers in the US Midwest by looking to the often ignored participants connecting these groups. Data for this research are drawn from 12 qualitative, on‐site interviews with participants identifying as seed dealers or agronomists who live and work in Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri, an agricultural region dominated by the soybean and corn agriculture that has also become ubiquitous in European and global contexts over the last half‐century. This project arises out of assemblage‐thinking approaches to re‐see the social relations between agronomists and agricultural seed. This research suggests that the convergence between genetically engineering hybrid seed stock and the discursive act of marketing that seed stock together coproduces a flexible materiality which is far from discreet or static. Because of this, transitional actors, the seed dealers and agronomists who buy and sell such seeds have unexpectedly outsized clout when considering the agentic capacity of members in conventional agriculture assemblages. By engaging with community members and farmer‐clients, seed dealers co‐produce the worlds and meanings of hybrid seeds and conventional agriculture. This paper explores these relations and considers their implications for imagining more environmentally sustainable futures.