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Bayer CropScience Expands Wheat Program

Wheat is often the forgotten stepchild when it comes to corn and

“You could almost say wheat looks like the soybean crops of 15
years ago,” says Lykele Van Der Broek, chief operating officer for Bayer CropScience.
While yields have not increased tremendously, he adds traits like glyphosate-tolerance
have made soybeans a more attractive crop and one that’s easier to grow.

There are signs, though, that wheat is getting its groove back. Bayer
CropScience executives discussed its expanded wheat investment earlier this
month at the Commodity Classic in Nashville, Tennessee.

“We are investing in wheat to build a leading breeding and traits
platform,” says Van Der Broek. “We will secure propriety access to top germplasm
and breeding excellence.”

Bayer will be accessing germplasm from both public and private
sources. The firm recently entered a collaboration with Texas
AgriLife Research, a part of the Texas A&M University System, to develop
and commercialize improved wheat varieties.

Traits will also be part of Bayer’s effort. It
plans to focus on traits like stress tolerance and improved nutrient uptake
efficiency. Bayer officials expect new wheat varieties from this effort to be
available by 2015 in Europe, later in the United States.

Van Der Broek says Bayer is also searching for ways to enable
wheat to better withstand both biotic (from fungal and insects pests) and
abiotic (cold or heat) stressors. Being able to better deal with both types of stressors
will help stabilize yields, he adds.

Heat tolerance will be a major focus of breeding efforts, “Of all
the major global corps, wheat is most sensitive to heat,” says Ed Souza,
director of global wheat breeding for Bayer CropScience.

Included in the breeding effort will be improved tolerance to Fusarium
Head Blight (scab). “In states like the Dakotas, scab is a significant
disease,” says Souza.


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