Stewardship at Bayer SeedGrowth

It’s all about professionalism

Why is stewardship so important to Bayer Crop Science Division? The answer, says Peter Ohs, Senior Global Stewardship Manager, is that proactive stewardship makes a significant contribution to sustainable agriculture from field to shelf, as well as underlining the company’s professionalism and responsibility to protect human health and the environment, and to ensure product integrity.
Stewardship is a catchy term. But what does it actually mean? Peter Ohs has the answer: “The responsible and ethical management of a product throughout its lifecycle, the maximization of the benefits derived from the use of our products, and the minimizing of potential risks to human health and the environment.” Stewardship measures address all aspects of a product – either plant protection products or seeds – from its development to the disposal of any related waste. Bayer’s Product Stewardship Policy and Principles are based on the FAO Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides, and are regularly updated to take into account amendments or additions to the FAO Code of Conduct.

“Stewardship is the responsible and ethical management of a product throughout its life cycle, the maximization of the benefits derived from the use of our products, and the minimization of potential risks to human health and the environment.”

Peter Ohs, Senior Global Stewardship Manager

Pursuing proactive stewardship

Click to enlarge

Passionate about stewardship: Peter Ohs

Stewardship is nothing new for Bayer. What has changed in recent years is the company’s mindset, which has switched from reactive to proactive stewardship. This new mindset now drives all the stewardship activities. “We have established processes which allow us to closely monitor the safe use of our products and to address potential risks,” Peter Ohs points out. “For those cases we develop and implement stewardship measures.” One good example is what Bayer Crop Science Division has done in the cotton sector in West Africa. “Of course, we care about what customers are doing with our products,” Peter Ohs says. “It’s not enough to simply put instructions on a product label. We provide information, training, and support (e.g., gloves) to users on how to protect themselves and the environment.
Additionally, we have trained employees of a seed company on a new technology for cottonseed cleaning and treatment. This has a positive effect on the environment, as the new cleaning method allows less product to be used, but additionally is resulting in a better adhesion of the product to the seed surface with less exposure to the farmer during sowing.”

Addressing potential risks

This proactive search for potential risks allows Bayer to continuously improve its stewardship measures. By creating and communicating best management practices to customers, Bayer’s Crop Science Division enables them to further reduce the potential risks to human health and the environment of using its products.
Click to enlarge

Protecting personal health.

In the case of dust emissions for example, stewardship measures involve promoting the application of high-quality seed coatings as well as using a deflector when sowing seeds with pneumatic vacuum sowing machines. The seed coatings developed at the Bayer SeedGrowth Center of Excellence in Méréville, France, can reduce dust emissions by up to 95 %. A deflector fitted to a pneumatic vacuum sowing machine lowers dust emissions by as much as 90 %, as field tests have shown. By reducing the exhaust air speed and directing the air stream towards the soil, a deflector significantly lowers the risk of exposure to abraded seed treatment particles contained in the exhaust air of the planter.

Seed-box lubricant

Another good example of applied stewardship is fluency agent. Used as a seed-box lubricant, it dramatically reduces dust emissions from a vacuum planter, e.g., in corn by up to 88 % compared to talc. This fluency agent is thus the ideal replacement for talc, graphite, or blends, can be used with all makes and types of planters, and has no impact on planting accuracy.
Click to enlarge

Deflectors reduce dust risk.

Bayer’s Crop Science Division is proud of its innovative strength. Therefore, the company is doing all it can to protect its innovations, among other things through stewardship measures ranging from resistance management to combating counterfeits. Yet stewardship is not just about protecting innovations; it is also driving them. Dust adhesion has been enhanced through better coatings, improved formulations, as well as enhancements for sowing equipment. Bayer’s AirWasher or SweepAir, for example, can greatly reduce dust emission during sowing.

Cleaning wastewater

For better wastewater management of residual sprayer solutions, Bayer developed a system called Phytobac™, a biological system for cleaning wastewater on farms. A waterproof pit filled with a substrate of soil and straw provides the ideal habitat for microbial degradation, with the cleaned wastewater evaporating from the substrate and returning to the water cycle. Bayer’s Crop Science Division is also developing alternative cleaning technologies like electrochemical oxidation technology to support industrial customers, e.g., seed treaters, who need to clean larger volumes and more highly contaminated wastewater. Since electrochemical oxidation ultimately converts the active substance(s) into CO2 (depending on the electricity input), it is a highly effective alternative to incineration. This technology is also foreseen for use at some Bayer sites.
Click to enlarge

Phytobac helps farmers clean wastewater on farms.

Partnerships are the prerequisite for implementing effective stewardship measures. In the field of seed-applied technologies, for example, it is impossible for Bayer’s Crop Science Division to implement stewardship on its own. Here, partnerships with farmers are just as essential as those with breeders, seed treaters, and sowing equipment manufacturers. And it is partnerships that make certification possible, with Bayer supporting its customers to fulfill the requirements of several certification schemes.

Certification as game-changer

A Stewardship Task Force set up by the suppliers of seed treatment products additionally drives the implementation of three main goals: development of industry best practices on dust; implementation of best management practices during seed treatment and sowing; and certification of seed treatment sites. A lot has already been achieved, as Peter Ohs explains: “As an industry, we speak with one voice. We have industry-wide acceptance of dust levels for crops, which have been adopted by the European Seed Association (ESA) and are now part of the European Seed Treatment Assurance scheme (ESTA). Our dust levels defined here in Europe are now even the basic dust levels referred to worldwide.”
Click to enlarge
Bayer’s Crop Science Division started its certification efforts where they were most needed – in Europe. But they are not just limited to this region. CropLife Canada, of which Bayer is a member, has created the Accredited Seed Treatment Operation Standards to provide uniform environmental health and safety practices for the storage and handling of designated seed treatment products in Canada. Here, as in Europe, the seed treatment certification process is picking up pace and will clearly have a positive impact on the sustainability of the business of the entire industry.

Practice what you preach

But if you want to promote certification, you have to be at the forefront of its implementation. Practicing what you preach is the name of the game. Bayer has its own certified seed-coating facilities in Méréville, France, and its vegetable seeds site in Nunhem, the Netherlands, which was the first vegetable seed breeder to obtain certification anywhere in Europe. In December 2013, Bayer and Syngenta unveiled a Five-Point Action Plan for Bee Health (see box on page 29 for details). In the first year of its implementation, Bayer CropScience focused on Hungary and the UK. Its involvement in the UK’s Red Tractor food assurance and certification scheme (http://www.redtractor.org.uk) was directed towards best management practices for British farmers, e.g., promoting the use of deflectors. But up to now, the main focus of Bayer’s action plan has been on Hungary where it has been promoting the use of deflectors, particularly among the country’s numerous smallholders.

“For us, the certification of seed treatment sites is essential to show the professionalism of the seed treatment industry, strengthen the confidence of authorities and civil society, and optimize seed treatment practices for the benefits of sustainable agriculture.”

Peter Ohs, Senior Global Stewardship Manager

“We’re targeting smallholders because there we’ve identified the highest potential risk in the use of our products and the greatest need to improve sowing practices among these farmers,” Peter Ohs explains. Under the Five-Point Action Plan for Bee Health the companies involved supported the first farmers who joined the campaign with 750 free deflectors while the ones who joined later were given a 30 % discount on specific deflectors. In all, more than 4,000 farmers have signed up to the campaign. In 2015, similar activities were implemented by Bayer in Romania, where smallholders with similar needs also make up the majority of farmers. Spain and Turkey are two more countries where Bayer’s Crop Science Division is evaluating the market for deflector needs and looking for partners to implement stewardship measures.

Bee Care Program

Click to enlarge

The Bayer Bee Care Center in North Carolina, USA.

Bayer’s commitment to bee health is also reflected in its Bee Care Program, which aims to further promote and develop solutions to improve bee health, to actively promote the bee-responsible use of its products, and to share knowledge and expertise with stakeholders from the beekeeping and agricultural communities, and with scientific and governmental institutions, NGOs, policy makers, and regulators. The two Bayer Bee Care Centers in Monheim, Germany, and Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA, make an important contribution towards promoting bee health by uniting the company’s extensive experience and knowledge under one roof, serving as a scientific and communication platform, and inviting discussions and joint projects with external partners. All this is based on the company’s belief that broad cooperation is essential to develop sustainable solutions for bee health. For example, Bayer is collaborating with researchers from Frankfurt University and other partners in Europe and the USA to find new ways of protecting bees against the Varroa mite, which most bee scientists and specialists consider to be the greatest threat to bee health. Bayer is also promoting various Varroa research projects focusing on resistance monitoring, varroacidal modes of action, and the testing of new candidates and solutions for Varroa control.

Protection of beneficials

Bayer is taking its responsibility for bee health very seriously. Consequently, it is committed to environmental stewardship and sustainable agricultural practices, which naturally include the protection of beneficial insects such as honeybees. And Bayer is working with agricultural communities worldwide to ensure that its products, which are essential in protecting plants from pests and diseases, are used in a bee-responsible manner. That is just one key example of stewardship in action – for the good of sustainable agriculture.

“Bayer is working with agricultural communities worldwide to ensure that its products are used in a bee-responsible manner.”

Peter Ohs, Senior Global Stewardship Manager

Interview with Peter Ohs

Game-changing certification

Why proactive stewardship measures and certification are so important – to Bayer and the whole seed treatment industrymore

Bee Health

Five-Point Action Plan

Bayer’s commitment to bee health.more