Jan. 8, 2019
The transition from one year to the next is a time of reflection for many people – and I’m no exception. Not only has it been an incredibly busy and exciting year at the Crop Science division of Bayer, both leading up to and following the completion of the Monsanto acquisition, it has been a momentous year for me personally. I was honored with the opportunity to lead our company’s newly combined research and development (R&D) efforts, subsequently traveled around the world to visit more than a dozen R&D teams on three continents, and moved from the U.S. to a new home in Dusseldorf, Germany.
|Bob Reiter, Head of R&D, Bayer, Crop Science Division
As I think about what’s in store for 2019 and beyond, I’m looking forward to leading this combined organization that builds on the successful track records of both legacy businesses in commercializing cutting-edge products for farmers. We have an exciting vision for this combined business. If you look at our R&D pipeline, there are more than 75 key projects in areas like seeds and traits, crop protection and digital ag, and that’s not including the hundreds of new hybrids and varieties and crop protection products we churn out every single year. We expect to launch more than 25 new products for farmers by 2022. Here’s a brief overview of how we’re working to shape agriculture for the benefit of farmers, consumers and our planet.
Breeding: Optimizing Large, Diverse Germplasm Library
Bayer’s leading germplasm library is really the foundation of our R&D program; it’s where we begin to look for answers to farmers’ challenges. Having a broad and diverse pool of genetic stock enables our breeders to assemble the best genetic combinations to create new seeds. But it’s not just that we have this big collection; we’ve also enhanced it with genome mapping, genetic markers and advanced breeding technologies that allow us to be more predictive in creating and selecting the next generation of high-performing progeny seeds. In the near future, these advances will make it possible for us to provide farmers with product-by-product agronomic recommendations that have been proven in the field ahead of commercialization.
Genome Editing: Well Positioned to Create Value in Ag
Of course, the next generation of advanced breeding that everyone is talking about is genome editing. I believe Bayer is well-positioned to create value in the space, given that genome editing builds on our foundation of exceptional seeds and traits, and our agreements with the Broad Institute, Pairwise Plants and others that give us access to the best genome-editing tools. One project showing great promise is corn with improved silage quality. Beyond that, we are developing future ag benefits to answer some existing unmet farmer challenges in areas like disease resistance and stress tolerance, as well as plant growth and development.
Biotech: A Global Leader in Offering Farmers New Solutions
In biotechnology, Bayer’s commercial products already reach more than 350 million acres today through our broad-licensing approach. We’re sustaining and growing that base with more than 20 new and next-generation traits in development. One project that I am especially excited about is Short Stature Corn, which rethinks the idea that taller plants are better. For one, by designing a corn plant that matures to a shorter height, the plant is less prone to both greensnap and lodging – challenging environmental conditions that can contribute to significant crop loss. In addition, due to its shorter structure at maturity, it enables ground-based equipment to move through the crop throughout the season. This allows for more precise placement of crop protection chemistries all season long.
Crop Protection: Enhancing Processes to Identify and Optimize Candidates
Crop protection chemistries serve as another tool to further protect and enhance crop performance. Whether it’s working with strategic partners like Targenomix to discover new modes-of-action and targets, or cooperating with growers in Australia to fund research of new active molecules, Bayer is seeking innovative ways to pursue new leads in crop protection. We have a very strong chemistry discovery platform today, which aims to generate new modes of action to help solve farmers’ challenges in the field. Beyond the core discovery program in chemistry, we are the leaders in formulation technology, and have more than 300 life-cycle management projects in our development pipeline today. This capability allows us to extend the life and reach of our products and provide farmers with more tools.
Biological Crop Protection: Industry Leading Position
Biologicals is also an exciting area that complements our seeds-and-traits footprint and will enable us to provide farmers with additional crop protection options. Bayer’s leadership in the area is really defined by our large collection of microbial strains, which fuels new biological product development. We’re screening more than 10,000 microbes every year in vitro (in the lab), and those efforts ultimately result in tens of millions of acres of use in row crops alone (and reach even more when you consider foliar application in fruit and vegetable crops).
Data Science: Using Insights to Make Better Decisions
Although Data Science is the least mature of Bayer’s leading platforms, it may be the most exciting because it brings together and optimizes each of the preceding platforms. Farmers are hungry for tools that enable them to improve the more than 40 decisions they make in a crop’s growing season. Digital tools like Climate FieldView™ provide data-powered recommendations that inform farmer decisions, like exactly when to spray fungicide for a developing disease, or when, where and how much nitrogen fertilizer to apply, helping to maximize harvests, reduce waste and improve sustainability. Farmers have chosen to purchase Climate FieldView on 60 million acres this past year – and I expect that number to increase significantly as we continue to advance more than 35 next-generation projects in the pipeline.
Convergence of Leading R&D Platforms: Points the Way Toward Tailored Solutions
In the not too distant future, the broad network of strategic partnerships and collaborations to the Crop Science Division of Bayer, together with our leadership in breeding, biotechnology, chemistry, biologicals and data science, will allow us to unlock new potential and provide our grower customers with tailored solutions – a combination of products, practices and tools that are uniquely designed to solve a farmer’s challenges. At the end of the day, our goal is to help each of them – the people who produce your food and mine – be as successful and sustainable as they can be in every part of their operation. And when we reach that goal, everyone wins.