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What’s coming in trait stacks from Bayer CropScience

A glance back at the past shows one new corn and soybean herbicide mode of action after another coming from the 1950s to the 1990s. Examples included glycines (glyphosate), ALS inhibitors (Pursuit), PPO inhibitors (Flexstar) and HPPD inhibitors (Callisto).

Then they stopped.

“When companies saw Roundup Ready (first launched in 1996 in soybeans) and how successful it was, frankly, they got a bit frightened,” says David Hollinrake, who heads agricultural commercial operations marketing for Bayer CropScience.  “They shifted resources away from traditional chemistry research. We are a bit more fortunate, we stuck with what we knew, and we continued to invest in chemistry research.” 

As a result, Bayer has recently been able to launch new products in the market like Corvus in corn. Hollinrake and other Bayer officials spoke about topics like these at this week’s Bayer Ag Issues Forum held prior to the Commodity Classic in Kissimmee, Florida. 

Innovations like this, though, still use existing modes of action.  It still is feasible to develop a new herbicide mode of action for corn and soybeans, and Bayer continues to research it, says Hollinrake. 

Still, it’s a long road to commercialization. Even if a company found a new herbicide mode of action today, it would take 10 to 12 years for it to weave through company trials and regulatory framework. 

Bayer did launch a herbicide with a new mode of action in 2011. Alion controls weeds in tree nuts and vines, citrus, stone and pome fruits. 

However, it’s been difficult in the corn and soybean market to hit the sweet spot of low toxicity, quick degradation, and sufficient efficacy, says Tim Zurliene, Bayer CropScience global corn and soybean trait mgt and licensing lead.  “It also has to be economical to produce,” he says. 

Trait stacks

Companies still continue to bring new products to market, using existing modes of action in concert with new trait tolerance packages. Pending regulatory approval, Bayer is partnering with MS Technologies to launch the Balance GT trait in 2015 (also referred to as Event FG72). This stack features dual tolerance to glyphosate and isoxaflutole (the active ingredient in Balance Flexx). Balance Bean will be the herbicide that matches this trait stack. 

Bayer is also partnering with Syngenta in developing a MGI herbicide tolerant trait featuring tolerance to mesotrione (Callisto), glufosinate (Liberty), and isoxaflutole. This likely will hit the market later this decade, pending regulatory approval. 

Corn rootworm resistance to traits that’s surfaced in recent years calls to action the need for multiple trait modes of action for insects, too, says Zurleine. 

“What we basically see is the market moving to two modes of action for lepidoptora (including European corn borer) and two modes of action for coleoptora (corn rootworm) in stacks,” he says. 

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