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May 2014

Why seed treatment is so vital for cereals


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Nobody said feeding the world's rising population would be easy. But that's exactly what cereals farmers do every day – growing wheat in Canada, rice in India, or other staples that people depend on worldwide. But these key crops present growers with challenges as diverse as the cereals themselves. That makes seed treatment essential.

Protecting vital crops

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, corn, wheat and rice account for a whopping 87 percent of global grain production and 43 percent of total food calories. Dr. Gerhard Feurer from Bayer SeedGrowth sees potential danger lurking where most people might simply see a field of wheat waving gently in the breeze. “In one country it could be a fungal root rot and somewhere else a horde of hungry leaf beetles,” he explains. Although cereal farmers have to contend with such a broad range of threats, Bayer can draw on an unparalleled wealth of experience helping them protect their harvests. In fact, the company revolutionized crop protection a century ago with a mercury-based seed treatment for cereals – a major advance that improved yields.
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Working with a century of experience

“It all started with Uspulun in 1914,” Dr. Feurer says, referring to a chlorophenol-mercury product used to combat fungal pathogens. Over the past 100 years, Bayer's portfolio of SeedGrowth products has been steadily improved upon to increase their efficacy and reduce their environmental impact. Key milestones include the fungicide Baytan and the insecticide Gaucho. Both are now indispensible to farmers around the globe who use them to protect major cereal crops such as wheat and barley.

Maize, wheat and rice account for 87% of worldwide grain production and 43 % of total food calories.
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Looking to the future

But Bayer is already looking to the next century when cereals could face growing environmental threats and stricter government regulations. Since cereal farming is usually a high-volume business, concerns about dust are quite prevalent. And with maximum allowed dust levels set to sink in the coming years, everyone involved in the process from seed treatment application to harvest will have to work together to reduce it. “Certification of application sites, improved dust cleaning processes, products and coatings with dust-binding properties, adopted processes and seed drills on the farm will help limit dust exposure in the future,” says Dr. Feurer.

Adapting to climate change

Climate change could also put the world's crucial cereal crops at risk in the coming decades. “We are seeing deviations from the normal temperature much more frequently than in the past,” says Byron Richard, a U.S. wheat farmer planting tens of thousands of acres in Belfield, North Dakota. Elsewhere, the concern is a lack of rain. “Dry periods seem to last longer today than they used to,” says Christoph Büren, a cereal farmer with over 1,000 acres in the Marne region of France.

Deviations from the normal temperature are happening much more frequently than in the past.
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Getting the most out of a crop

But regardless whether the threat is drought or a hungry beetle, Bayer's focus in seed treatments for cereals remains firmly fixed on helping its customers get the most out of their crop. “While traditionally control of pest and diseases was the main focus for seed treatment, the future might see products supporting plants stressed by drought or frost,” says Dr. Feurer. And that, in turn, will help cereal farmers to continue feeding the world’s population.

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