Bayer CropScience officially opened a new Wheat Breeding Station located in a major wheat growing region near Paris, France in the Parc Gâtinais between the valleys of Milly-la-Forêt and Maisse. About 250 guests and employees attended the event. This center is part of Bayer CropScience’s growing network of wheat breeding stations worldwide - located in Australia, Canada, Germany, Ukraine, USA, and now France.
The breeding-program at Milly-la-Forêt is focused on improving yields, addressing challenges with regard to water-use efficiency and heat tolerance, and improving resistance to wheat fungal diseases. Grain quality is another important criterion. The first commercial varieties from the breeding program at this station are expected by the end of the decade.
The station, with its 77 hectares of land and additional 110 hectares in leased property, as well as a greenhouse and a plant laboratory, employs 17 people and during seasonal peaks, up to 40 temporary employees. In September 2012, the site was purchased from the privately-owned French company RAGT Semences. Bayer CropScience will be investing more than EUR 7 million over three years in the site’s facilities. This is to double the capacity of the laboratory and the greenhouse.
Frank Garnier, President of Bayer Group in France, said at the opening ceremony: "The need for food will dramatically increase over the coming decades. We feel at Bayer CropScience it is our responsibility to heavily invest in innovation and to transform the wheat seed and trait market in a way which will also, for the future, enable French wheat producers to address this major challenge."
Rick Turner, Global Head of Wheat & Oilseeds at Bayer CropScience, added: "Bayer CropScience is committed to innovation in wheat, and we know progress comes from increasing genetic combinations and improved selection, which is why we are linking research to our breeding pipeline. But we cannot do it in just one market alone. The wheat breeding station at Milly-la-Forêt helps form a strong foundation of Bayer CropScience’s wheat breeding program worldwide. Milly, like our other stations, will use local expertise and well adapted germplasm to create varieties best suited to the local market."
Guest speaker Catherine Feuillet, currently the Research Director at the national French agricultural research institution INRA and coordinator of the BreedWheat Consortium, gave an insight into the genomics revolution and its contribution to wheat improvement. She described the complexities around wheat improvement, the challenging structure of the wheat genome and the integrated toolbox that can lead to improved germplasm: "Although we have had tremendous progress in genomics, there are still areas such as high throughput phenotyping in the field that need to be supported if we want to capture the benefits of having access to the new resources and knowledge coming from the wheat genome sequence. However, wheat is well on its way to catching up with other crops through efforts in genomics through the past years."
Wheat is the world's most widely grown crop
About 25 percent of the world's arable land is planted with wheat, making it the most widely grown crop and one of the world's most important staple foods. Wheat ranks second behind corn in terms of cereals production, with more than 650 million tons grown yearly. Wheat productivity is growing at a rate of less than one percent annually, while the global demand is increasing twice as fast. The main wheat-producing regions are the EU, China, North America, Russia and Australia. France is the leading wheat producer in Europe.
Bayer CropScience is the global market and innovation leader in crop protection products for cereals and is pursuing long-term investments in sustainable cereals production. The company aims to become the partner of choice to wheat growers and the wheat industry be offering superior solutions from seed to shelf - including seeds, traits, crop protection products and services.