Bayer: How biologicals add a new dimension to integrated crop management

The future of agriculture is about striking a delicate balance. A balance between finding ways to grow enough and decreasing its footprint. A balance between short-term and long-term: meeting everyone’s nutrition needs, while leaving our ecosystems in good health for tomorrow.
Mon 06/03/2023 by Pierre Escodo

Amidst this background, Bayer in the agricultural value chain is asking themselves: how they can continue to reduce the residues of crop protection products? How can they prevent crop-destroying pests and diseases developing resistance to the active ingredients we rely on? How can they farm regeneratively, preserving and improving soil health year-on-year? And how can they do this without losing the crop yields that provide us with food, feed and fiber?

Policymakers have taken on this issue by setting Maximum Residue Levels for many chemicals used to protect food crops. Major retailers are even more ambitious, and demand that their suppliers go beyond the legal standard. It is no surprise that the EU reported that 96% of the food samples it analyzed were within all legal residue limits. Nevertheless, Bayer always strive for constant improvement: identifying ways to take the residue and resistance management, environmental and crop safety, and crop quality to the next level.

This is why biologicals are such a crucial and exciting tool. With active ingredients derived from naturally occurring sources, they give farmers a whole new way to protect their crops and limit their environmental impact. Unlocking the potential of integrated crop management systems, biologicals help bring people what they need: nutritious fruit and vegetables, produced to high standards of quality and sustainability, with minimal residues.

The biologicals market

Demand for biologicals is growing significantly, in line with humanity’s rising ambition for sustainability. Between 2019 and 2028, the biologicals market is forecasted to more than triple in value, ultimately reaching $27.2bn. Of this, three-quarters is applied to fruit and vegetables; more than 60% of biologicals are applied for pest and disease control, with bio stimulants and fertilizers making up the rest.

Bayer has been committed to reduce the environmental impact of its crop protection solutions by 2030, therefore its mission is also to help bring more biologicals to farmers, it order to achieve this ambitious goal. Following an open innovation model, Bayer collaborates with best-in-class innovators across all stages of the R&D pipeline to discover and market new active ingredients derived from the power of nature. Bayer biological innovation journey is just beginning and there are many exciting developments yet to come.

Bayer latest partnerships in biologicals

Biologicals are a new addition to farmers’ plant protection arsenal. Growers use biologicals – either alone or as part of an integrated crop management strategy – to protect crops precisely and efficiently, reducing both losses and expenditure on inputs. At the same time, they help meet retailers’ sustainability standards, thereby safeguarding growers’ market access. All in all, they support yield, profitability and long-term prosperity.

For example, Serenade – a microbial solution for control of soil and foliar bacteria as well as fungal diseases – is being used on potatoes, instead of conventional products. Not only does it have an effect on Helmintosporium, Rhizoctonia and common scab, but it also enhances the strength and appearance of potato skins, extends shelf-life, and thereby supports yield and combats food loss.

In top fruit and soft fruit, Serenade and Flipper – a bio-insecticide derived from virgin olive oil, effective against a wide range of pests but safe to beneficial species – are in widespread use, powering a biodiversity-enhancing, low-impact production system with no residues at harvest.

In Southern Europe, Vynyty has been launched in a special formulation to control orange, lemon and grape farm pests. Using a pheromone-based attraction and repulsion system that keeps harmful insects off fruit, it requires no spraying at all – just hanging a product diffuser in the orchard.

Integrated, not isolated, for best results

Biologicals can complement and even replace traditional crop protection products. Complete replacement happens mainly in the fast-growing organic sector, which relies on labelled and authorized biologicals.

But biologicals are not exclusive to organic farming. Every farmer can benefit from biologicals as part of their crop protection toolbox. Their most effective use case is complementary to other technologies – traditional crop protection, but also seed traits and digital tools – in an Integrated Crop Management System that creates more value than any single solution (see our Root2Success program). Since pests and diseases are ever-evolving and regulations are ever-changing, it is of utmost importance to equip farmers with as many tools as possible to produce healthy, safe and nutrient-dense crops in a sustainable manner.

Traditional crop protection products still have a role in an integrated system, for the control of high-pressure pests or pathogens. But with biologicals as part of the system, farmers can manage lower pest and disease pressures for longer, so chemical applications are kept to a minimum – and kept further from harvest time. They will also be better equipped to manage resistance, since they are applying a greater variety of active ingredients with different modes of action to their crops. All the while, digital platforms give them a better understanding of precisely what to apply and when.

This holistic approach is the next frontier in agriculture. But it is a complex one and needs the right equipment and practices to make it work at field level. Therefore Bayer is committed to supporting farmers with advisory and stewardship services to enable them to use every tool in their toolbox in an integrated, science-based manner. This is how Bayer can achieve true aims: boosting yields while reducing not merely volumes of inputs, but impacts.

Bayer with Kimitec to bring the next generation of Biologicals

Bayer and Kimitec announced last February 1rst in Almeria a new strategic partnership focused on accelerating the development and commercialization of biological crop protection solutions and biostimulants. As part of a global agreement, both companies will become key partners to advance and establish biological solutions derived from natural sources: crop protection products that address pests, diseases and weeds, as well as biostimulants to promote plant growth.

Kimitec operates the MAAVi Innovation Center, Europe’s largest biotechnological innovation hub with 15 years of experience in the research and discovery of natural molecules and compounds for agriculture and food sectors, to provide farmers and growers with all types of natural agricultural products. By leveraging Bayer’s unparalleled product development expertise with Kimitec’s proven discovery capabilities, biological product development will be accelerated to build integrated crop management solutions that can scale and develop through Bayer’s global infrastructure backbone. This includes field testing, product support and commercialization.

“Bayer is committed to providing growers with the benefits of biological solutions as part of an integrated crop management system backed by our leading traits, crop protection products and digital tools,” said Dr. Robert Reiter, Head of R&D for Bayer’s Crop Science division. “Every farmer can benefit from biologicals, from seed treatment to pest control, and Bayer will be bringing together systems of solutions to provide more value by providing farmers greater flexibility.”

With this agreement, Kimitec becomes a key partner for the acceleration of Bayer’s pipeline of Biologicals. As a world leader in biologicals R&D, Kimitec’s MAAVi Innovation Center will provide its expertise and its unique disruptive technology, including AI as an enabler of faster time-to-results. This will fuel Bayer’s ability to market the next generation of biological solutions.

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