Nov. 23, 2015
Crop pests can come in all shapes and sizes, which is why farmers often need more than one solution to a problem. Take, for example, parasitic nematodes, also known as eelworms.
Responsible for destroying an astonishing 12 % of the world’s crop production, nematodes account for $ 100 billion in agricultural losses each year. Finding protection from these tiny parasites remains one of the greatest challenges facing farmers today. “The problem with nematodes is that they’re hidden in the ground – it’s hard to get to them,” explains Dr. Jürgen Benting, who researches pest control for Bayer CropScience in Monheim, Germany. To make things more difficult, there are also many different species of nematodes affecting a diverse selection of crops. Bayer CropScience recently streamlined its portfolio to focus on innovative solutions. Accordingly, Bayer has completely revamped its approach to nematode prevention in recent years, building a “tool kit” comprised of four areas: chemicals, biologicals, genetics, and breeding.
“It’s good to see new products coming out. We don’t want to get lulled into thinking just one thing is the answer,” says Ken Franklin, a grower helping farm some 3,000 ac of treated soybean and corn in central Illinois, USA. “The new chemistry seems to be working.” Bayer SeedGrowth’s chemical solutions include the new product ILeVO (fluopyram), in addition to its well-known products, Aeris in the USA and CropStar in Latin America. Shown to be effective against nematodes on various crops, these seed-applied products have an even more improved environmental profile. Highly targeted in their application, they aim to improve yields and quality for farmers growing crops such as soybeans and cotton, while minimizing exposure to non-target components of the environment.
Since the restrictions on NNi use were imposed by the European Commission, growers have been highly exposed to the flea beetle and turnip root fly. They have no alternative but to spray, while at the same time resistance problems are occurring. “It’s a real pity since long-term practices have shown that the use of these products is safe when used according to the instructions on the label. We are continuously working on providing new data and hope that the European Commission will reconsider the usage restrictions to give growers the possibility to rely on these important tools again.”
Currently, there is no seed treatment product available to control the flea beetle in oilseed rape. And the effects are certainly being felt: 5 % of farming land in the UK is heavily affected, acres have had to be resown, and farmers are missing a crop in their crop rotation.
But chemicals are often just one aspect of the nematode equation. That’s why Bayer SeedGrowth also offers innovative biological products to keep nematodes from infesting the roots of crops like soybean and corn. VOTiVO, in Poncho/ VOTiVO, contains the bacteria Bacillus firmus, which grow with the plant’s roots to form a living shield around it. The product is being introduced in an increasing number of countries to combat nematode attacks.
“We had hard rain last season, but the soybeans are lasting a lot longer due to treatment,” says Franklin, who works with Bayer’s Poncho/VOTiVO product at Nation Farms near Taylorville, Illinois. Combining ILeVO with Poncho/VOTiVO gives growers excellent root and plant protection against nematodes, including the notorious soybean cyst nematode, sudden death syndrome (SDS) fungal disease, and insects. The payoff is a healthier plant with maximum yield potential. “It’s the ability to combine what works that makes the difference,” Dr. Benting emphasizes.
The threat they represent should not be underestimated. From tomatoes and potatoes to corn and grapes – nematodes cause immense harvest losses of up to 50 % in all of these crops worldwide.
In Brazil, Bayer is complementing its offer around the proven performer CropStar with a new service based on satellite technology. The new nematode radar is helping to predict nematode risk levels for growers, who can then respond with the appropriate seed treatment. The innovative approach, combined with a massive educational effort, has put Bayer in Brazil at the forefront of fighting yield losses caused by nematodes. Bayer’s multifaceted approach allows for tailored solutions to the unique challenges facing farmers around the globe, as they fight these extremely destructive parasites. “We’re always working towards the optimal solution,” says Dr. Benting. With plenty of options from Bayer’s nematode tool kit at your side, it won’t just be the proverbial early bird getting the worm.