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Bayer CropScience stepping up seed and trait investments
New investments in seeds and traits were on the minds of Bayer CropScience executives during Bayer’s Ag Issues Forum at this month’s Commodity Classic in Nashville, Tennessee. Here’s some of what was on their minds.
· Bayer is increasing its emphasis on seeds and trait technologies while streamlining its crop-protection portfolio. For example, it is phasing out its most acutely toxic pesticides – all remaining World Health Organization (WHO) class I products – by the end of 2012.
Soybeans will benefit from this shift. Bayer CropScience entered the soybean business in 2011 by buying Hornbeck Seeds, a Dewitt, Arkansas, soybean, rice, and wheat seed company. “We want high-quality (soybean) varieties in combination with better traits,” says Mathias Kramer, head of Global BioScience for Bayer CropScience.
Bayer will work to develop desirable soybean characteristics like decreased shattering potential and better oil quality. “We also are working on game-changing soybean cyst nematode (SCN) control to deliver higher yields,” he adds.
Bayer may not be done buying seed companies. “I cannot be more specific, but we are constantly looking for attractive options to enlarge our seed portfolio,” says Lykele van der Broek, chief operating officer for Bayer CropScience.
· Bayer is working on a new corn rootworm trait with a new mode of action that differs from current control measures. No commercialization date has been set, say company officials.
· Bayer is increasing efforts to deal with the impact of climate change.
“We see shifts in disease and insect patterns,” says van der Broek. The good news is, Bayer products used for pest control in some areas also will work in new areas where pests surface, he says.
Improved varietal breeding also will help crops deal with changing climate. “We are improving crops to withstand extreme weather – whether it is heat, drought, or saline tolerance – or to have more efficient uptake of nutrients,” says van der Broek.
· European resistance to transgenic technology is not relenting. The European Union (EU) has relaxed rules allowing the importation of foods produced under transgenic technology.
“Unfortunately, there is not much progress or interest for the cultivation of biotech traits,” says van der Broek. “I find it disappointing for European growers that they are at a competitive disadvantage to other places where they (transgenic crops) can be grown. I’m sure Europe will see the light, but it will take longer than we have hoped for.”