Crop Tech - November 2019

Farm Journal's Crop Tech ( Lindsey Benne )

Rumors Swirl, But Bayer Is Committed To Roundup

As president of the Crop Science division of Bayer, Liam Condon says litigation and threats of litigation that swirled around the company’s acquisition of Monsanto and, specifically, its glyphosate product, Roundup, made the first half of 2019 tough to navigate.

“That’s been the low point for the year, though we’re confident it will play out over time and be solved,” he says, noting spring flooding in the Midwest reduced farmers’ use of Bayer products, and the U.S. trade conflict with China added to the company’s dismal first half.

One piece of good news for farmers who want to apply the glyphosate technology is it will be available for use in 2020.

“We are completely committed to making sure farmers all over the world continue to have access to glyphosate,” Condon says. “It's the safest herbicide out there, so we've got to make sure it remains available.”

At the same time, the company pledged this past July it would spend about $5.6 billion over the next decade on novel herbicide technologies. The investment is equivalent to 15% of the company’s annual R&D budget at current spending levels. Bayer also plans to use the money to develop new seeds, plant traits and digital farming technologies.

While the company manages through the various glyphosate-related issues, it continues to work on weed-control solutions for the future that, Condon says, are likely to look different from what’s currently available.

“We've been moving more and more toward offering different options. Farmers don’t have enough options,” he says, noting no new herbicide active ingredient has been introduced for weed control in the past 25 years.

“From a technology point of view, we're pretty open to what works,” Condon says. "But for us, it needs to be effective, it needs to be safe, and it needs to be economical for the grower. That's kind of the bottom line.”

California Will Prohibit Chlorpyrifos

California’s EPA will end virtually all use of chlorpyrifos following an agreement between pesticide manufacturers and the Department of Pesticide Regulation. Retailers will not be able to sell chlorpyrifos after Feb. 6, 2020.

Until the ban goes into effect, any use must comply with restrictions including: no aerial spraying, quarter-mile buffers and limiting use to crop pests for which there are no alternatives for control. Growers will not be able to use or possess the product after Dec. 31, 2020.

There is, however, one exception, granular chlorpyrifos will remain on the market. California EPA says these products are not associated with negative health effects and make up less than 1% of products on the market.

Year After Merger, BASF Has Big Plans

BASF is in its second year of transformation following a massive industry-wide reorganization and consolidation, and is seeking to integrate newly added tools to its portfolio.

“We want to increase our top line by 50%,” says Vincent Gros, president of BASF’s agricultural solutions division. “We want to grow faster than the market, and we believe we have the tools in hand.”

In the past two years, BASF bought the businesses and assets being divested by Bayer during its acquisition of Monsanto. That included:

  • Bayer’s global glufosinate-ammonium business.
  • Seeds including traits, research and breeding capabilities and trademarks for key row crops in select markets.
  • Vegetable seeds business.
  • The research and development platform for hybrid wheat.
  • Seed treatment products.
  • Glyphosate-based herbicides in Europe used predominantly for industrial applications.
  • Complete digital farming platform Xarvio.
  • Several non-selective herbicide and nematicide research projects.

In the first half of 2019, this division of BASF increased sales compared with the same period last year by 38% to $4.83 billion. BASF plans to launch more than 30 new products into the market by 2028, including: a digital farming platform Xarvio, a new fungicide Revysol, a soybean variety that reduces soybean pod shatter and a new hybrid wheat platform.

Corteva Agriscience Partners With MicroMGx Microbial Platform

In what the company says is a first-of-its-kind application for the agricultural industry, Corteva Agriscience will use MicroMGx’s metabologenomics platform to develop naturally derived crop protection solutions.

The metabologenomics process fuses genomics and mass-spectrometry data to target molecule identification. The molecules are naturally occurring. The platform was developed via a collaboration including the Northwestern University Chemistry of Life Processes Institute and the University of Illinois’ Institute for Genomic Biology.

Corteva already develops products using spinosyns, which sources active ingredients from naturally fermenting soil bacteria.