BASF addresses role of innovation for ag sustainability
BASF presented its crop protection and plant biotechnology pipelines and outlined plans to globalize agricultural research activities as part of its “We create chemistry” strategy. The company also released initial results of a new AgBalance study, which showed a 40 percent rise in the overall sustainability of Iowa corn production between 2000 and 2010. Launched in 2011, AgBalance is BASF’s method for measuring sustainability in agriculture.
“BASF has a strong track record of bringing innovative solutions to farmers,” said Markus Heldt, President of BASF’s Crop Protection division. “This steady stream of innovations is driving the division’s success.”
At the press conference, BASF showcased pipeline developments across its many research disciplines. Crop protection highlights included solutions for challenging weed control, such as recently launched herbicides from the Kixor family as well as Engenia herbicide for Dicamba tolerant crop systems, which is expected to be launched in 2014. Also highlighted were new products from the Xemium family, BASF’s next generation carboxamide fungicide, and Initium, BASF’s latest fungicide for the fast-growing specialty crop segment. Furthermore, BASF explained its new research areas for solutions to better manage resources and plant stress.
In the area of plant biotechnology, BASF Plant Science has developed an unparalleled gene discovery platform, which focuses on yield and traits capable of dealing with unfavorable conditions such as drought. Peter Eckes, Ph.D., president of BASF Plant Science, said, “As a ‘Trait Technology Partner,’ we join forces with market leading food and seed companies to bring our products to the market. We provide solutions that deliver ‘more with less’, which will accelerate the sustainable intensification of agriculture.” Commenting on the expansion program at Research Triangle Park, he added, “The decision to establish our headquarters in North Carolina is driven by the intent to be closer to our main markets and partners.”
Speaking about the globalization of the company’s R&D efforts, Harald Lauke, Ph.D., president of BASF’s Biological and Effect Systems Research division, said: “Research is not just about lab-based work; it also means developing cross-functional teams to work closely with customers on the ground, in the markets. By 2020, we plan to conduct 50 percent of all the BASF Group’s research and development activities outside of Europe.”
BASF Crop Protection and Plant Science continue to expand their research footprint in the United States and globally. The company recently announced a $33 million expansion program at Research Triangle Park to strengthen research activities in both divisions.
First U.S. AgBalance study on Iowa corn production
Initial results from the first U.S. AgBalance study on Iowa corn production reveal how farmers have combined new technologies with best crop management and soil conservation practices to achieve a more than 40% improvement in sustainability over a 10-year period. This accompanied the significant contribution that Iowa corn farmers have made to world food production and the agricultural economy. The overall sustainability score combines a 30 percent improvement in the economic index, a 33 percent increase in the environmental quality index and a 57 percent jump in the social index. The favorable economic development was also due in large part to higher yields and higher farm profit margins and higher yields. The latter were 32 percent in 2010 compared to 1.3 percent in 2000. The environmental improvements were due to a combination of factors. These included widespread adoption of conservation tillage programs and an increase in preserved areas. Looking to the social index, the study indicated that farming is increasingly viewed as a professional and attractive career option for young people.
AgBalance is a holistic method developed by BASF to systematically assess sustainability in agriculture. This lifecycle analysis compares farm operations, taking into account three dimensions: environment, society, and economy. Using weighting schemes to evaluate more than 200 factors, AgBalance gives a consolidated sustainability score. In 2011, the tool received independent assurances from three global expert agencies: The TÜV SÜD, DNV Business Assurance and NSF International.