Interview with Casper van Rooijen

Boosting rice farmers’ businesses by up to 20 percent

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We talked to Casper van Rooijen, Segment Manager Rice for Bayer SeedGrowth, about the challenges in rice farming and the new seed treatments Bayer is offering to help growers in Asia become more successful.

Casper van Rooijen, Segment Manager Rice for Bayer SeedGrowth

In Asia, agriculture is mainly carried out by smallholder farmers. What are the biggest challenges for them?

One of the biggest challenges smallholder farmers in Asia have to face today is the rural exodus of the younger generation. The youth prefer to live in the cities; they want to study and are not interested in a farming profession. But rice growing is very labor-intensive. And farmers are dependent on strong young workers. On the other hand, they have to cope with an ever-growing population, and thus with an increasing demand for rice.

Furthermore, a changing climate and diseases such as rice blast are major threats to rice production. A recent innovation from Bayer SeedGrowth® has the potential to combat these threats – what is it exactly?

That’s right. Rice blast is one of the biggest threats in many Asian countries. That is why we have developed the rice blasticide Routine® Start. We provide seed companies with this high-quality product to help them deliver seeds with protection against rice blast. Routine Start helps plants defend themselves and makes them resistant to diseases. Farmers benefit from it as well as the companies that sell not only seeds but seeds combined with crop protection – a solution that makes them stand out from the competition.

Asian rice farmers face many challenges, for example diseases such as rice blast.

But treating seeds also means a bigger investment for the farmers. Why should they use the new technology instead of spraying?

Spraying is not an easy job. On the contrary, spraying means a lot of work for the rice farmers. They have to wade through the swampy ground of the rice field, wrapped in protective plastic suits with a heavy field sprayer on their back. This is really hard work for them. With treated seeds they can reduce spraying activities because the fungicide is already on the seed. This means that the farmer has less work and also effective protection of seeds and seedlings during the first 60 days after sowing.

Are there any figures that confirm the success?

We already launched Routine Start in Malaysia in 2015 and have cooperated with seed companies that provide these treated seeds to their customers, the farmers – with success. The smallholders were enthusiastic because they could improve their yield by up to 20 percent when using the whole Bayer Much More Rice Program and had less work because they didn’t need to spray so often. In the end, that is also better for the environment. We have also successfully launched in Taiwan and are well on our way to achieving 10% area penetration next year.

What are the plans for the future?

We want to further develop the seed treatment and our cooperation with seed companies. At the moment we offer a fungicide treatment for rice. But in the future we want to have an all-in-one solution that includes insecticidal features. And we are preparing for the launch in other countries, in China, Vietnam, and Indonesia for example.
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