Bayer CropScience and KWS SAAT AG have signed an agreement to jointly develop and commercialize an innovative system of weed control in sugar beet for the global market. The technology is based on the breeding of sugar beet varieties that are tolerant to herbicides in the ALS-inhibitor-class with broad-spectrum weed control. This will give farmers a new opportunity to make sugar beet cultivation easier, more flexible in its timing and more environmentally friendly. The system is scheduled to be available to farmers in some years.

Joint research on developing the system began in 2001. The new sugar beet plants have a naturally occuring change in an enzyme involved in the biosynthesis of essential amino acids. During the development, sugar beets with this spontaneously changed enzyme were specifically selected and used for further breeding. As such, these varieties are not a product of genetic modification.

"Bayer CropScience has contributed to reliable weed control in sugar beet with its regularly improved BetanalTM products for more than 40 years. But no fundamentally new herbicide active ingredient in sugar beet has come onto the market for many years, unlike in crops like wheat or corn. The new system will make it possible in future to use new active ingredients in sugar beet and control major weeds with low dose rates of product and reduced number of applications," said Christophe Dumont, responsible for the company's business strategies in soy, corn, cotton, sugarcane, sugar beet and for the herbicides portfolio.

"KWS has been using state-of-the-art methods to breed high-yielding varieties for a sustainable agriculture for more than 150 years. With the development of these new sugar beet varieties, we continue our success of the last decades. We started work on this innovative system 11 years ago and it will finally be available for farmers in some years. The new technology will significantly improve the competitiveness of sugar beet and enable our customers to cultivate sugar beets more successfully in future," explained Peter Hofmann, Ph.D., head of the sugar beet division at KWS.