Researchers at Bayer Crop Science are developing crop solutions to help make agriculture more profitable and sustainable over the next decade
By Jackie Clark
Producers are continually innovating to solve problems on the farm, and those creative solutions don’t stop at the farm gate; they extend throughout the industry. Bayer Crop Science recently outlined highlights from its research pipeline that will be released over the next decade to improve the efficiency and productivity of the global ag industry.
“There has never been a more important time to reimagine how we farm to feed our world,” said Liam Codon, a member of the board of management of Bayer AG and president of the Crop Science division, in a Feb. 13 media call. “We are unequivocal in our pursuit of setting new standards in sustainability.”
Dr. Bob Reiter, the head of research and development for Bayer Crop Science, outlined three major advancements and areas of study: short stature corn, a novel herbicide mode of action, and XtendFlex® soybeans.
“As we look ahead for the next ten years, there’s much to look forward to,” Reiter said in the call.
Bayer has developed short-stature corn using three methods: breeding, biotechnology, and genome editing, explained Reiter. The benefits would include the “reduction of crop losses and the opportunity for more precise use of crop protection,” he said.
Shorter corn would also allow for reduced lodging and “the product has the potential to reduce both land and nutrient requirement for corn production by enabling increased planting density and allowing late-season access,” he added.
Although total plant height will be shorter, Bayer researchers are endeavouring to keep the ears at a similar height to conventional corn. So, farmers should be able to grow and harvest short-stature corn using equipment they already have, explained Mike Graham, head of plant breeding at Bayer Crop Science.
Testing is still underway, but “the potential fit for this product has grown to more than 220 million acres” worldwide, said Reiter.
Another area of exciting research is in small molecule discovery.
Bayer is working on “the first new post-emergent mode of action for broadleaf weed control in 30 years,” Reiter announced. This herbicide mode of action seems to be effective at killing grasses, including those resistant to glyphosate, he explained.
The product is still in early development.
“Please stay patient,” said Axel Trautwein, Bayer’s head of small molecules, in response to avid interest on the call. “It will take until the end of this decade until we go through development and the regulatory approval process.”
However, Bayer has other weed control products arriving sooner.
XtendFlex® soybeans, with resistance to glyphosate, dicamba and glufosinate, are “a product that’s commercialization is right around the corner,” Reiter said. The soybeans “promise to provide excellent flexibility in weed control.”
This product is the third generation and is reported to control 375 weeds, compared to 350 weeds controlled by the previous generation, Reiter explained.
Fourth and fifth generations of soybeans are also moving to the next phases of development. When commercialized, the fourth generation will have resistance to the same herbicides as the third, plus HPPD and 2,4,D tolerance. The fifth generation will add resistance to PPO, Reiter said.
Bayer Crop Science photo