Bayer opens European wheat breeding center
Wheat is the world's oldest and 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.
click image to zoomBayer invests around 720 million euros in research and development for crop protection and seeds & traits per year. By the year 2015, the effort can be increased to around 850 million euro. Wheat breeding plays an important role. Bayer is the global market and innovation leader in crop protection products for cereals and is pursuing long-term investment in sustainable cereals production. Thanks to its presence in all relevant markets and countries and as a result of the constant introduction of new products for agriculture, the company occupies an outstanding position in the crop protection market for wheat. Moreover, Bayer CropScience aims to establish a globally leading wheat seed business based on a broad pool of breeding material and local varieties and focusing on outstanding agronomic properties.
From Gatersleben: Coordination of wheat breeding
Elmar Weissmann, Ph.D., head of the European Wheat Breeding Center, describes the facility's work as follows: "We are taking over the coordination of the entire wheat-breeding activities in Europe and the networking with our breeding stations for other growing regions of the world. Important research targets are increasing yields and promoting efficient nutrient use, for example nitrogen and phosphorus uptake. But the work involved in adapting wheat varieties to climate factors such as drought or heat is also presenting us with challenges." The breeders are also looking for new varieties that are more resistant to fungal infections and which can increase the quality of the harvested produce. One important criterion is the protein content.
The technologies being used comprise the entire spectrum of state-of-the-art methodology, including marker-assisted breeding to accelerate the implementation of the declared breeding objectives. The Gatersleben site is particularly suitable for this work thanks to its good infrastructure, soil conditions and climate. Another regional breeding station for wheat is currently being built near Lincoln in the U.S. state of Nebraska. Other local stations are planned in Europe and Australia as well as, in the medium term, in Asia and Latin America. In addition, a network of alliances with leading international research institutions is currently being set up to put the latest procedures in biotechnology into practice and thus accelerate the rate of breeding progress. Bayer's most important wheat-breeding center is located in Ghent (Belgium). The introduction of the first wheat varieties is not anticipated before 2015.
Gatersleben near Quedlinburg in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, is one of the most internationally important research centers for crop plants. The Biotechpark is part of a biotechnology initiative launched by the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. It shares a campus with the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research.