Strengthening plants from the very start

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Biological seed treatments address the needs of both growers and society. Jannis Wittka, Segment Manager at SeedGrowth Biologicals, knows why Bayer SeedGrowth® strongly believes that continuous investment in biologicals will lead to further innovation in seed-applied technologies and advances in sustainable agriculture.

What is the current state of the biological seed treatment industry?

Jannis Wittka: “Overall the industry has seen tremendous growth in market demand and acceptance in the last few years. At the same time, the rapidly evolving technology landscape and heterogeneous regulatory environment created some uncertainties with growers. Companies like Bayer with strong R&D capabilities, global outreach and innovative, thoroughly tested and field-proven products can help to alleviate those concerns and offer differentiating solutions to agriculture and society.”

What role does Bayer play in this segment?

Jannis Wittka: “Bayer offers science-based biologicals that give growers a broader choice in agronomic solutions, going hand in hand with consumer and environmental needs. Our innovations are intended to contribute to better soil, root and plant health and offer enhanced profitability to our customers by increasing yield and quality.”

What is the focus of your current research?

Jannis Wittka: “The focus of our research activities at Bayer continues to be on boosting yields. By providing suitable seed treatment products, we are pursuing our goal of strengthening plants from the very start. That way, they can successfully cope not only with pests and diseases, but also with unfavorable environmental conditions such as abiotic stress and nutrient-poor soils. One of our most important goals at Bayer SeedGrowth is to enhance crop efficiency, for example by contributing to optimized water and nutrient uptake or increased functional root volume.”

So biological seed treatments can easily boost yields?

Jannis Wittka: “The plant rhizosphere and the multidimensional interaction between microbes, soil, and plants is extremely complex and has developed over millions of years. Therefore, it is a challenge to transfer positive results from a laboratory or greenhouse environment to the field under varying climatic and soil conditions and to ensure that growers get the trusted performance they expect. Another relevant challenge for the practical application of biological seed treatments is shelf life on the seed and compatibility with other seed treatment components such as chemical fungicides or insecticides, micronutrients or additional microbes such as inoculants.”

How can you ensure consistent effectiveness?

Jannis Wittka: “We invest significant resources and time throughout the development cycle of a new biological seed treatment and test it thoroughly in the laboratory, our greenhouses and ultimately in the field. We work on finding out more about the symbiotic relationships between plants and microbes by employing state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms to analyze field trials in a novel way. The goal is to identify potential major agronomic factors influencing microbial field performance that Bayer researchers can then utilize to develop biological seed treatments adapted to various environments.”

What does the future look like?

Jannis Wittka: “The biological seed treatment industry will grow significantly in importance. Precision farming and advanced digital offerings will enable more targeted farming practices. We know that consumers are increasingly interested in how their food is grown and want to know that farming practices are environmentally sustainable. Biological seed treatments already play a role in helping farmers reduce their CO2 emissions and can help their crops use fertilizer more efficiently. Bayer has a strong track record of developing and commercializing groundbreaking biological seed treatments and with our strong R&D pipeline and innovation partnerships we will continue to launch new tools to support our customers around the world.”

Innovation on the rise

Biological seed treatments can be a powerful tool for growers – and they work best as part of an integrated system. Just like Bayer’s recently launched crop efficiency products:

JumpStart® and ProStablish®. Wheat seeds treated with these solutions provided a statistical yield increase of 3% over standard fungicide treatment. Both are part of a new segment of biological seed treatments for Bayer. JumpStart can lead to better phosphate uptake by the plant and root and shoot growth. ProStablish enables increased functional root volume and allows for increased water and nutrient uptake.

A third innovation is the BioRise® 2 Corn Offering which will be applied to Bayer’s new 2019 corn hybrids sold in the US and Canada, and Bayer corn hybrids introduced in the US in 2017 and 2018. It is an on-seed application of Acceleron® B-300 SAT and Acceleron® B-360 ST. Trials have shown a yield boost of 2% per acre across diverse environments.

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