Competence areas







July 2016

Interview with Enrique Moretti


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How inoculants push plants’ growth performance, why they are easy to apply, and how they contribute to more sustainable agriculture: Enrique Moretti, Director of the Argentinian-based Biagro Group acquired by Bayer in 2014 knows the answers. His company brings extensive expertise in the development of biological seed treatment solutions, which fit in well with the concept of the fully integrated Bayer SeedGrowth™ system.
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Enrique Moretti, Director of the Biagro Group

Biagro is a globally respected expert in developing and applying inoculants. How do inoculants enhance the absorption of nutrients and growth of plants?

Enrique Moretti: “Inoculants are products with active living microorganisms as their main mode of action or ingredients. Although they are not only applicable on legume crops, they are mostly related to them. The active ingredients of these inoculants with respect to legume crops are rhizobia strains. Legume crops need lots of nitrogen because their pods contain large quantities of protein. Take soybeans, for example. They require four times more nitrogen than corn or twice as much as sunflowers. In return, soybeans produce grains with more than 38 % protein. To meet this demand, nature itself found a way to supply the soybean with nitrogen by associating the plants’ roots with the rhizobia. This symbiosis allows the plants to utilize atmospheric nitrogen which, during fixation by the rhizobia in the nodules, is converted to the ammonia form of nitrogen which is a form that is useful to the plant.”

Could you please explain this in a little more detail?

Enrique Moretti: “The mechanism of transforming atmospheric into absorbable nitrogen is known as biological nitrogen fixation. For this reason, it is indispensable that every time soybeans are planted, the presence and quality of these bacteria are assured so the plant can deliver the highest possible yield. As it is a living bacterium, it is vital that the inoculant survives on the seed until it is the right moment to infect the plant roots. And it is important to know that there are specific inoculants for each commercially planted legume crop.”

How are inoculants applied?

Enrique Moretti: “There are two ways of applying inoculants: onto the seed before planting or onto the furrow during sowing. The latter practice is less common. Inoculation technology has developed further so it is possible to apply inoculants in combination with chemical crop protection products well in advance of planting. This allows the grower to treat the seed, keep it ready for use, and save a lot of time in the planting season. This is the result of selecting the best strains and multiplying and developing them on an industrial scale through cutting-edge technology.”

What are the benefits of inoculants for the environment?

Enrique Moretti: “When inoculated, the plant consumes nitrogen from the air so soil nitrogen is still available to non-leguminous crops, such as wheat, corn and sunflowers. This helps us to preserve the soil and use fewer nitrogen fertilizers. For example, a well-known Argentinian grower managed to obtain 8,000 kg of soybean per hectare on more than 40 ha of irrigated experimental lots without adding nitrogen fertilizers and only using our Biagro inoculants. Biological nitrogen fixation fully met the plants’ demand for nitrogen.”

Biagro not only offers products, but also technical services. Why does this matter to users of inoculants?

Enrique Moretti: “We offer technical advice and training to our customers. We analyze their needs to offer the best possible treatment, including products and equipment. If necessary, we also construct devices and machines to apply the products. Growers increasingly demand that we are close at hand in case of need and that we offer products of the desired quality at the right time.”

Which inoculant-based Biagro products are on the market and for which crops?

Enrique Moretti: “In Argentina and Brazil we offer liquid inoculants and solid formulations. It is up to growers to decide what suits them best. We have a complete portfolio of inoculants for all major legume crops grown in Mercosur member countries, the Southern Common Market. Of course, the ones for soybean are the most important and our top-sellers. In Argentina we offer packages combining Bayer fungicides for use on farm as well as for semi-industrial and industrial seed treatment.”

Are there any innovations in the pipeline?

Enrique Moretti: “We are working on new technologies for the next generation of soybean inoculants. We have already developed new inoculants that stimulate the vegetal growth of soybean, wheat, corn and other crops. One product in particular is showing encouraging results in field trials, and we believe it will be commercially available soon. Without any doubt, the joint expertise of our R&D teams helps us to find the solutions growers require. Having within a single company the knowledge of Biagro professionals combined with Bayer's equipment, formulations, agro-chemicals, biological products, seeds, coatings or technology – to mention only a few – is a valuable differentiator and allows us to get the best results and innovations.”

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Founded: 1984
Acquired by Bayer: 2014
Employees: 127
Head office: Las Heras, Buenos Aires Province (Argentina)
Services: Inoculants for legume crops, stimulants for plant growth, co-inoculants, biological insecticides, R&D facilities
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