Feeding the growing global population is one of the greatest challenges facing the world. By the year 2050, our planet will be home to more than nine billion people. However, the amount of available agricultural land is declining due to increasing urbanization, higher salinity levels and soil erosion. In addition, extreme weather conditions like drought and flooding are impacting harvest quantity and quality. Bayer is the third-largest innovative agricultural input company in the world and we aim to help make the agricultural economy more productive.
Some of Our Biggest Priorities in Research:
Stress affects plants as well as people. And their stress levels are rising, as climate change tests their ability to survive drought, flood and temperature fluctuations.
We can’t just make these ordeals vanish, much as we’d love to. Our first step is to make plants better at coping – so they can produce high yields even in tough conditions. For example, our scientists are trying to unlock the secrets genes hold about plants’ stress tolerance.
New hybrid seeds can also boost yields – as we’ve already done by up to 30 per cent in the case of oilseed rape and rice, compared with open pollinated plants.
Can we make a tomato more delicious or a cotton fiber stronger? Could rice be healthier or a melon easier to eat? Yes to all the above. And they’re just examples of the many traits we can strengthen in crop plants.
In fact, we bring about 70 new varieties of vegetable seed to the market each year – each offering farmers at least one new trait that’s sure to grab the interest of their customers.
Rapeseed oil is another example of improvement that never stops. We’re helping cut the levels of unhealthy transfatty acids that may accrue during processing.
And while farmers need herbicides to kill off weeds, how can they stop killing off their crop plants into the bargain? We help make their plants strong enough to resist and even break down herbicides – thanks to substances known as safeners, which scientists have used in other applications for 30 years or technologies based on genetic engineering which makes crops tolerant against herbicides.
Not resting there, we’ve also gone on to combine herbicide resistance with caterpillar control – in our TwinLink™ technology, which gained approval in the US in 2012. Thus we want to help plants help themselves by fending off specific pests that threaten their survival.
A product is just a step in a journey. There’s always a better one waiting around the corner. Diseases can quickly become resistant to treatments – so the pressure is always on to find the substances that will stop that happening. The most exciting breakthroughs happen when we harness nature’s own processes – as with Movento™, for example, which uses sap to distribute the active substance throughout the plant. Bad news for pests wherever they live and feed on it.
Other big stories from our labs include the long-lasting herbicide Alion™, which controls weeds in perennial crops, such as citrus fruits, nuts, grapes, pome fruits and stone fruits. And the fungicide Luna™, which controls a large number of fungal diseases in the field and prevents rotting processes during storage.
Another area to watch: finding pest management answers based on biological active ingredients contributing to sustainable agriculture. These include our Votivo™ product lines for seed treatment and also Natria™, a spray product containing the natural active substance from the neem tree that controls sucking and chewing insect pests.