Competence areas







October 2014

Bayer’s contribution to advances in a key subsistence crop


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Rice is Asia’s staple food crop. Indeed, half the world's population is estimated to subsist entirely or partially on rice. In Japan Bayer CropScience has played a key role in the development of this vital crop.
Rice originated as a food crop in China and was soon afterwards brought to India. It was long assumed that rice came to Japan around 300 B.C. but more recent evidence suggests that it may have been grown in Japan around 1000 B.C. or even earlier. So the rice seed market in Japan has come a long way since the first rice paddies appeared thousands of years ago. Bayer CropScience Japan has played a key role in the development of this vital crop, and is planning to launch exciting new rice seed treatment solutions for this important market.
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Trend to larger rice farms

In 2012 about 1.2 million of the 1.5 million commercial farm households in Japan had rice paddies with an average size of 1.3 ha. While the number of farms has been steadily decreasing, the average farm size has been increasing. Between 2010 and 2012 alone, the number of commercial farm households with rice paddies fell by 8%. Rice farming had already been a part-time occupation for most growers in Japan, as farm sizes remained very small and did not provide sufficient income. Recently, however, even fewer people have become involved in part-time rice farming. Thus, the trend has been to larger rice farms, some of 10-30 hectares. Though this is small in worldwide farming terms, a rice farm of this size is actually large for Japan.

50 g granules containing fungicides and insecticides are applied to each nursery box.

High water and labor requirements

Rice is a very special cereal crop in many ways. It grows best under standing water conditions and thus has the highest water needs of all cereals. Moreover, it also needs more manual labor than other cereals. That is obvious when you see how many people are working the fields in countries where rice is transplanted by hand in the traditional way. With Japan industrializing relatively early and manufacturing industry creating a high demand for labor, ways had to be found to grow rice with a significantly reduced input of labor.
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How rice is grown today

Nowadays, specialized machines are used to transplant almost all the rice grown in Japan. As a first step, rice seeds are soaked in water for an average of seven days and incubated for 15 hours at 30 °C. This is done to initiate the seed germination. After this ‘pre-germination’ step, the still wet seeds are then placed in nursery boxes. A semi-automatic machine resembling a conveyer belt fills these nursery boxes with a layer of growing disinfected soil, followed by the wet or moist seeds coming out of the pre-germination step and a final layer of growing disinfected soil. During the nursery box and growing process, 50 g granules containing fungicides to control rice diseases and insecticides to protect the seedlings against insects during the nursery and early-to-middle stages of growth are added to the nursery boxes. Most rice in Japan is now treated with these ‘nursery box’ applications of insecticides and fungicides. However, whilst most cereal seeds now receive a seed treatment to protect them and the young plants from insect damage and diseases, seed treatment has only played a minor role in rice up to now.

An early treatment of the seed or young seedling can ensure long-lasting protection of the growing rice plant.

The advantages of seed treatment

The benefits of a seed treatment are significant. For example, the amount of active ingredient needed for optimum efficacy is significantly lower than when spraying an entire field. This is the advantage of a highly targeted application. Dried and purified seeds can also be treated under controlled conditions and in large volumes. This ensures a much more precise application so that each seed, and therefore each plant, receives a very precise dose. The outcome is optimum efficacy and a further reduction in the amount of chemicals needed. Finally, treating the seed requires less energy and labor than spraying chemicals onto a crop.
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Key breakthrough in rice seed treatment

Bayer CropScience has long recognized that treatment of rice seeds would thus be the most desired form of application – especially under the conditions in Japan where there is an ever-growing need for more labor-saving technologies in growing rice. What has so far prevented this development is the soaking of rice seeds in water to pre-germinate them. When dry rice seeds are treated with chemicals and then placed in water, the seed treatment washes off and the expensive active ingredients prove ineffective. Bayer has been studying this issue for many years and by thinking outside the box has developed a new, groundbreaking technology that, for the first time, allows dry rice seeds to be treated with chemicals in an industrial setting. The treated seeds can still be pre-germinated as described above – without the active ingredient being washed off. So in the future, farmers will be able to purchase precision-treated seeds and still carry on with their usual on-farm practices. Bayer is excited to be leading the way in this huge step forward in enhancing rice production.

“We are very proud to complement our already strong portfolio offering with products containing blasticide and sheath blighticide.

Kohei Sakata, Bayer CropScience Japan

Bye-bye rice blast and sheath blight

One of these active ingredients protects rice plants against rice blast, the most widely occurring rice disease and the most devastating if left untreated. When rice seeds or seedlings are treated with this active ingredient, the leaves of the plants are protected from this disease up to formation of the panicle. A second active ingredient developed by Bayer CropScience protects rice plants against sheath blight, the second most critical rice disease in the Japanese market. Here, too, an early treatment of the seed or young seedling can secure long-lasting protection of the growing plant.

Bayer’s product line will be able to provide long-lasting control from the very beginning.

Long-lasting control from the beginning

“We are very proud to complement our already strong portfolio offering with products containing these two active ingredients,” says Kohei Sakata, Head of Marketing, Bayer CropScience Japan. “Our product line will be able to provide long-lasting control from the very beginning. As a next step, we are planning to make both active ingredients available for industrial rice treatment of dry seeds in Japan. This will be groundbreaking technology, allowing Japanese farmers to enjoy, for the first time, the precision of an industrial seed treatment and the assurance that every seed is protected. We are also proud to make a contribution to Japanese agriculture that enables farmers to become even more competitive in growing rice.”
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