New Bayer row crop herbicide with new mode of action coming by 2030
Bayer is developing a postemergence row crop herbicide with a new mode of action slated for commercialization by the end of the decade.
If all goes according to plan and regulatory controls are received, this would be the first commercialization of a new herbicide mode of action in row crops, such as corn and soybeans, since the late 1990s and early 2000s. That was when chemical companies launched HPPD inhibitor (Group 27) herbicides such as Callisto.
“It has excellent weed control in grasses and a tremendous safety profile,” says Bob Reiter, who heads R&D (research and development) for Bayer. This was one of the updates Bayer executives gave during an international agricultural media briefing. Other highlights are below.
Short Stature Corn
Bayer is planning a limited launch of its Short Stature Corn in 2023 through its Ground Breakers field trial program in which it will be working with around 150 early adopters, says Reiter. An initial commercial launch will follow in 2024.
“Our biotechnology [short stature] product, which is going to launch around 2027, is really the anchoring point where we can deploy the product across a very large amount of pretty much all of our genetics in the U.S. and Canada and in South America as well,” Reiter says.
A gene-edited version of short-stature corn will follow, particularly in other regions of the world where biotechnology products are not the first choice of governments and farmers.
Short Stature Corn stands between 6 and 8 feet tall, compared with normal hybrids that stand nine to 11 feet tall.
Surveys and conversations Bayer has had with farmers find that nearly 75% of farmers would plant one-third of their corn acres to Short Stature Corn the following year if available, says Reiter.
“To give you some context, there’s more interest [among farmers] in Short Stature Corn right now than there ever has been for any biotechnology trait that we ever introduced into the market,” says Reiter.
Increased standability is part of the value proposition to farmers, says Reiter. More standability translates into more yield potential, he says. Other value components exist, he adds. Farmers can maximize their fertility and crop protection products, as shorter corn enables them to enter fields with application equipment later in the season. This also helps farmers better manage risk and simplify decision making, Reiter says.
“One thing I’ve learned over the many years working in this space is that products that help simplify a grower’s decision making and execution have inherent strong value for a grower,” he says.
When Reiter first started his career, he and his colleagues would stand in plots and write down findings with a pencil and note pad and make decisions about which hybrids and varieties to advance in a breeding program.
“Precision breeding is a whole new way to think about how we breed seeds,” he says. “In the past, breeders would make crosses and create large populations, and we would go through a process of selecting what we would believe was the best. We would test it in many environments and ultimately try to place those products where we thought they had the best fit for the grower.
“With precision breeding, we’re turning all of this on its head,” he says. Bayer uses knowledge of its genetics and teams it with tools such as artificial intelligence and data capabilities to place genetics in the correct environments to help ensure grower success, he says.
“It will be a few years until products come out of precision breeding, but I fundamentally believe they will be step change products and create great productivity for the future of growers around the world.”
Corn Rootworm RNAi Trait
This year, Bayer will launch SmartStax PRO across 100,000 U.S. corn acres. It uses RNAi technology as another mode of action to control corn rootworm. SmartStax PRO will team the RNAi mode of action with two Bt events, Cry3Bb1 and Cry34Ab1/Cry35Ab1, that are used in current SmartStax packages.
In 2024, Bayer will introduce VT4Pro with RNAi technology. This will give farmers another choice to control below-ground insects in less-intense areas, say Bayer officials.
Bayer is also using tools in areas such as biotechnology, crop protection, and breeding to help farmers sequester carbon.
“We’re also partnering with companies like Microsoft, which will help us in this digital journey in terms of both tracking and identifying carbon and then making sure that carbon can be recognized in terms of how much is being sequestered and how that might be used in terms of insets and offsets in the market,” says Reiter. “Using these digital tools together with our other capabilities is really a great one-two punch in terms of making a climate-smart agricultural system worldwide.”