Bayer opens innovative corn-breeding greenhouses in Arizona

The Marana Greenhouse facility in the Arizona desert will bring more corn products to market faster, say Bayer officials.

Bayer has opened what the firm calls its new smart, state-of-the-art, automated greenhouse facility in Marana, Arizona. Company officials says this is part of Bayer’s plan to provide farmers with innovative, sustainable, and technically advanced agricultural solutions.

Bayer officials say the Marana greenhouse facility is the first of its kind for the company and the most technically advanced. The approximately $100 million facility will serve as a global product design center for corn, the only crop to be grown there. Additionally, the Marana facility will capitalize on innovation advancements in proprietary seed chipping, advanced marker technology, automation, and data science. 

“With our new Marana greenhouses, Bayer is reimagining the way plant breeding is done and setting the standard for environmental sustainability,” said Bob Reiter, who heads crop science research and development for Bayer, in a Bayer press release. “Meeting the unique challenges that farmers face requires different ways of thinking and working, and this new innovative facility is one of the many ways Bayer will deliver on its commitments to farmers.”

The Marana greenhouses, which occupy 300,000 square feet of growing space, are designed for the sustainable use of inputs throughout the research process, say Bayer officials. Water used for crops will be recycled, which helps preserve precious desert water supplies; 100% of harvested materials will be used for compost, and beneficial insects will be used to reduce pesticide applications. 

Locating the Marana greenhouses in the Arizona desert instead of the traditional corn-growing region of the Midwest allows more days of warmth and sunlight, say Bayer officials. This allows researchers to maintain plants year-round, enabling three to four corn crop cycles to occur annually. Also, by using the controlled environment of the greenhouses, the indoor breeding process eliminates crop exposure to adverse weather conditions and prevents new seed development delays. Growing conditions can be customized to simulate various climate conditions around the world.

“Every investment in innovation is an investment in more sustainable agriculture for the next generation, and the effects travel far beyond one site,” added Reiter in the news release. “The corn hybrids developed here, under diverse growing environments and weather scenarios, will bring innovation to growers in every part of the world.”

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