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New Corn and Soybean Herbicide Site of Action May Be Coming in Late 2020s

It’s still early in the pipeline, but Bayer Crop Science officials say there are some promising candidates.

There’s promise for a new corn and soybean herbicide site of action, says Bob Reiter, global head of research and development for Bayer Crop Science. 

“We have some early-stage candidates,” says Reiter, who spoke at Bayer’s AgVocacy Forum held prior to this week’s Commodity Classic in Orlando, Florida. “It remains to be seen whether those survive all the way through the remaining research and development stages. But we have some promising things in the pipeline. We are excited because we haven’t seen a new site of action in a long time.”

HPPD inhibitor (Group 27) herbicides (Callisto, Corvus) were the last corn and soybean herbicide sites of action to be commercialized in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“We may have cracked that code, but it’s still in the early stages and it will be several more years before we get closer to market,” he says. “The average time for developing (herbicide) technology is an average of 14 years, so we’re probably a good decade out.”

Here are other developments Bayer Crop Science executives discussed at the AgVocacy meeting. 

Seed Advisor

It’s a new varietal selection tool launched by The Climate Corporation (Bayer’s digital ag division) last year. Seed Advisor uses an algorithm that takes farmers’ data and uses it to help them select seed on that basis. 

Officials for The Climate Corporation say farmers testing the tool in 2018 boosted yields by an average of 9.1 bushels per acre as compared with not using the seed-selection tool. That’s across 100,000 U.S. corn acres in Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota. 

The Climate Corporation will continue testing in 2019 with 200 Iowa, Illinois, and Minnesota farmers on 500,000 acres, says Bret Sitzmann, global director of product marketing for The Climate Corporation. Seed Advisor costs $4 per acre in the limited launch, he adds. 

In the past, it’s made sense to use the company's own on-farm knowledge in the past to make decisions, Reiter says. Now, though, using data from a wide array of fields and environments is more powerful. 

“It's really about changing decision-making with local data to making decisions where you're accessing data from millions of other acres and then using the appropriate data from there that makes sense for your individual field or your individual square yard of that field,” says Reiter. “Farmers have to learn to get comfortable with the fact that the data and analytics coming from someplace other than their own farm are more powerful than the data they collect from their own fields.

In a sense, all this is counterintuitive, he says. 

“If you are a farmer, who is your main competitor? It is your neighbor,” says Reiter. “They (farmers) will say, ‘Wait, you want me to share data with my neighbor?' ’’

That apprehension is understandable, says Reiter. Still, he says sharing data will enable farmers to get back more valuable information.

“This is a big emotional shift,” he says. 

The next generation of dicamba-based soybean weed control.

Bayer’s XtendFlex product will add glufosinate (Liberty) tolerance to tolerances to glyphosate and dicamba in the current Xtend offerings. It’s expected to debut early next decade. 

Dicamba and glyphosate will continue to anchor Bayer’s herbicide offerings, says Reiter. However, Bayer will bring in additional sites of action like glufosinate early next decade and down the road, HPPD inhibitors (Group 27 herbicides to which ones like Callisto and Corvus belong), he says. 

“Our fundamental goal has always been to have two highly effective modes of action against grasses and two or more highly effective modes of action against broadleaves,” says Reiter. 

A new-generation rootworm control product.

Bayer Crop Science plans to launch its SmartStax Pro early next decade that will include a third mode of action using RNAi technology, in addition to the two now present (Cry3Bb1 and Cry34Ab1/Cry35Ab1) in SmartStax. Currently, SmartStax Pro is in the import approval process with China and the European Union.

The MON87411 event – termed CRW III – has a gene inserted into the corn cell that tells the corn plant to make a specific double-stranded RNA (dsRNA). When rootworm larvae ingest the protein, it stops a specific RNA in the corn rootworm cells from making a specific protein the rootworm larvae need to survive. SmartStax Pro will be sold as a triple pyramid, with the Cry3Bb protein, the Cry34Ab1/Cry35Ab1 Bt protein, and the RNAi trait that Bayer has developed.

“It’s a whole new mode of action that complements what is already out there (other Bt products),” says Reiter. Besides deterring corn rootworm, it’s also a resistance management tool that can control rootworm in instances where corn rootworm resistance has developed to Bt traits. 

Microbial products.

This year, Bayer is launching its BioRise 2 Corn offering. It’s a biological seed treatment package containing both Acceleron B-300 SAT and Acceleron B-360 ST. Bayer officials say it:

  • Can boost water and nutrient uptake through roots. 
  • Increases phosphate availability and stimulate mycorrhizal spores.
  • Increases root volume. 
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