Bayer CropScience and the privately-owned company RAGT Semences S.A.S., based in Rodez, France, have signed a license and cooperation agreement. Under the agreement, RAGT grants Bayer CropScience access to winter wheat germplasm and associated molecular markers. The French company has one of the strongest winter wheat breeding programs in Europe. In addition, both companies will explore joint projects to further improve wheat breeding and RAGT will have options to license wheat traits from Bayer CropScience. Financial details were not disclosed.

“We are very excited about our partnership with RAGT and the opportunities it will bring in the future. This mutually beneficial agreement will further strengthen the wheat breeding programs of both partners,” said Sandra E. Peterson, Chairman and CEO of Bayer CropScience. “This licensing and cooperation agreement is another important step to achieve our goal: To improve sustainable cereal production with superior solutions based on our leading crop protection portfolio, agricultural service solutions and best in class wheat varieties. These solutions will enable growers to increase the productivity of wheat in a sustainable way addressing challenges like climate change.”

For Daniel Segonds, Chairman of RAGT Executive Board, “this agreement represents a major step for RAGT in further expanding its solid position in the European wheat seed market.”

Wheat is a key crop for both partners that deserves huge research efforts involving both conventional and new breeding techniques in order to address the future challenges in agriculture. “Thanks to Bayer CropScience’s strong traits portfolio and the company’s unique skills in advanced technology, combined with its commitment and means to address these new challenges, Bayer CropScience certainly represents the ideal partner for us,” said Daniel Segonds. “We are convinced that this cooperation will be a source of sound solutions for European growers, and will highly benefit both partners,” he added.

In July 2009, Bayer CropScience announced the expansion of its global activities in seeds and traits, to include a focus on cereals. As part of its investment plans, the company is increasing its research and development resources to raise productivity of wheat cropping. To support its internal research and development efforts, Bayer CropScience has already entered into collaborations with CSIRO in Australia, the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, USA, and Evogene in Israel. In 2010, Bayer CropScience also acquired two wheat breeding programs in the Ukraine. The first new wheat varieties from the company’s global wheat breeding program are expected to be available within the next five years.

Key figures about wheat:
With about 25 percent of the global agricultural land under wheat cultivation, it is the largest cereal crop in terms of acreage and one of the world’s most important staple foods. Wheat is the second most-produced cereal crop after corn with more than 650 million tons produced every year. Wheat productivity is increasing at less than 1 percent annually, while the annual global demand is growing at approximately double that percentage. Main wheat producing regions are Australia, the Black Sea Region, China, the European Union, India and North America.