Bayer revealed key updates to its research and development (R&D) pipeline for its Crop Science division. During 2020, Bayer commercialized 10 crop protection formulations and advanced three key biotech products to launch while providing farmers around the world with more than 430 newly commercialized hybrids and varieties of corn, soybeans, cotton and vegetables.
Bayer’s annual investment of €2 billion in Crop Science R&D is nearly double the spend of the company’s next closest competitors. With an estimated peak sales value of up to €30 billion, Bayer has the most productive pipeline in the industry, continually converting its industry-leading value-driven investment into new, innovative products aimed at benefiting growers, consumers, and the planet.
Bayer’s advancement to the launch phase of three biotechnology traits include Intacta 2 Xtend soy, which has gained all regulatory approvals and is expected to launch in Brazil by the end of the year. This enhancement of the Intacta franchise will support farmers across South America with multiple modes of action for insect control.
In 2022 SmartStax PRO corn is expected to launch in the United States. SmartStax PRO offers three modes of action for rootworm control, including a novel RNAi-based mode of action, which is expected to have an area of opportunity of more than 75 million acres.
Advancements in insect-protection traits reduce the need for foliar insecticide applications and improve productivity per acre. Bayer’s ThryvOn Technology, a trait for lygus and thrips control in cotton is set for a stewarded Ground Breakers Program in the United States in 2021. In a biotech first, ThryvOn Technology will meet an important need in the cotton market and is predicted to help better control and reduce insecticide use. This is the first biotechnology trait ever introduced for piercing and sucking insects and will provide immense value to farmers by supporting healthy plant growth and helping protect yield potential against pests that, until now, couldn’t be managed through a biotech trait.
Next-generation biotech traits
A key focus area for the R&D pipeline is to provide farmers with flexibility in weed control, through next generation soybean traits. In the future, farmers can look forward to choosing the weed control options that best suit their operations, knowing that the varieties they’ve chosen offer premium genetics and the ability to manage weeds.
Bayer has developed the first five-way stack of herbicide tolerance for soybeans. Currently in Phase 3 of development, this trait offering adds to XtendFlex’s three tolerances with another two modes of action; tolerance to HPPD and its own proprietary 2,4-D tolerance. In Phase 2 of the pipeline there is an additional mode-of-action coming to convey PPO herbicide tolerance. Additionally, the third generation of insect control in soybeans will further enhance the Intacta franchise and help farmers continue to increase yields while reducing the use of insecticides.
Continued investment in biotech traits means that next generation insect control traits in corn will be launching in the near term, with many debuting in South America. Brazil and Argentina are gearing up for the launch of VTPro4 in time for the 2021/22 season having received all necessary regulatory approvals. This new stacked offering includes an additional mode of above-ground insect control to combat evolving resistance in tropical Brazil.
Bayer’s fourth generation of lepidoptera protection continues to show outstanding efficacy for above ground control and has received full cultivation approval in Brazil – a critical milestone for the planned commercial launch by middle of the decade.
Short Stature Corn will transform production
Bayer’s short stature corn is expected to transform corn production by enabling a new production system that allows more precise use of crop protection as well as the potential to optimize the use of key resources such as nitrogen, land and water. Short stature corn improves standability, including better green snap and stalk lodging tolerance, to help reduce significant crop loss from challenging environmental conditions and extreme weather including high winds. Short stature corn is a win for farmers, sustainability and food security at the same time.
Bayer’s development of three approaches to short stature corn will help enable global market access. In Phase 3 development are two approaches – advanced breeding and biotechnology. Advanced breeding is working to introgress naturally occurring short stature characteristics into elite germplasm. Bayer is collaborating with BASF on a biotech approach to shorten internodes which enables applicability across a wide array of germplasm. With gene editing, Bayer is developing multiple approaches to generate short stature corn, creating potential for opportunities in multiple markets. Leveraging all three approaches to short stature corn, Bayer anticipates the product concept could have a fit on more than 220 million global acres in the coming years.
Advanced breeding technologies
Through advanced breeding tools and Bayer’s large germplasm library, 430 new hybrids and varieties across corn, soy, cotton and vegetables have been deployed. The technology and traits deployed in developing these varieties protect the inherent yield potential of the seed and help Bayer continually improve the quality of its seed portfolio.
Bayer’s breeding efforts are moving from selecting the best seeds with breeding to designing the best seeds for farmers. Through data science and a vast germplasm library, Bayer continuously enhances product development to meet changing needs of farmers.
Data science business models
Every farmer faces different challenges and needs a tailored solution. The industry-leading Climate FieldView digital agriculture platform is now being used on more than 150 million subscribed acres across the world. The connectivity from those acres, including logging information from planters, sprayers and combines, helps farmers make data-driven decisions and evolve Climate FieldView’s models to optimize yields. Bayer is better integrating the data into its R&D process, enabling aligned testing to reflect how its customers farm, helping inform advancement of key projects it is developing.
FieldView’s Seed Advisor has continued to help farmers improve productivity by optimizing seed placement recommendations. Growth of the platform means that the models are now powered by more than 6.9 million data points from more than 8,600 hybrids on more than 70,000 fields.