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From #Classic15: Bayer Rolling Out New SDS Seed Treatment

Commodity Classic is the week when companies show off their latest products to farmers. Prior to this year's meeting in Phoenix, Bayer CropScience held its annual Agricultural Issues Forum. We sat down with David Hollinrake, vice president of agricultural commercial operations marketing for Bayer Crop Science, to learn about what's new with Bayer.  

LibertyLink. Bayer recently received an import certificate from China for its LL55 Liberty Link soybean. It's a new version of the LibertyLink trait that confers tolerance to glufosinate. Hollinrake says this will allow Bayer to put the trait in a broader germplasm pool and expand trait access. Bayer is also teaming up with MS Technologies to market the Balance Bean GT Soybean Performance System. This will pair glyphosate and an isoxaflutole-based herbicide with the HPPD inhibitor mode of action for use on herbicide-tolerant soybeans. Isoxaflutole is the active ingredient in Balance Flexx herbicide, currently used on corn. The system's herbicide will be called Balance Bean. The system is not yet approved, but the firms expect federal approval mid-decade. University and industry weed scientists have stressed for years the importance of diversifying weed-management programs. Recent conversations Hollinrake has had with farmers indicate the message is being received loud and clear.

"We are seeing farmers use a lot more (herbicide) modes of action," he says. "They are doing the things we have advocated about changing up (herbicide-tolerant) trait systems. They are looking forward to new (herbicide-tolerant) traits to help them."  

In the next four to five years, Hollinrake sees multiple stacks of herbicide-tolerant traits on top of each other. One new product you don't hear about from chemical companies is a corn and soybean herbicide with a new mode of action.

The last mode of action to be commercialized was the HPPD inhibitor mode that first debuted in the late 1990s with Callisto, and later on with products like Bayer's Corvus. Reasons are many. All the easy modes have been found. Herbicide discovery and commercialization is spendy. Regulatory hurdles are high. Bayer continues to look.

"When Roundup Ready came along, Bayer did not stop investing in discovery science," Hollinrake says. In the meantime, he says farmers may see a new class of HPPD inhibitors that could kill weed species that today resist current HPPD inhibitor herbicides. It's a ways off, though, likely in the 2020s, he says.  

New Strain of Votivo Coming. Bayer debuted its Poncho/Votivo product on the market several years ago. The Votivo portion contains bacterial spores coated on the seed that germinate and protect roots from nematodes by forming a protective barrier. It doesn't directly kill nematodes, but renders many of them ineffective. Bayer's push in biological was accentuated by its 2012 purchase of AgraQuest, a biological pest management firm, Hollinrake says Bayer is working on an improved bacterial strain of Votivo that may hit the market in the next two to three years.

Ilevo. This year, Bayer is also having a limited launch in 2015 of its Ilevo seed treatment that can be teamed with Poncho/Votivo. It's a seed treatment that will help soybeans battle Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS), a fungal diseases that popped up in quite a few Midwestern fields last year. Bayer has enough Ilevo for about 2 million acres this year. SDS can cause economic losses up to $1 billion losses annually, says Hollinrake.

"The epicenter for SDS has been the 'I' states (Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana), but it can be present almost everywhere soybeans are grown," he says.

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