Agricultural chemical companies face a future that will see increased regulatory pressure on crop protection materials, fewer basic manufacturers to provide those materials and a world population that will double within 25 or 30 years, making efficient food and fiber production even more important than it is today.
“Those are some of the challenges we face,” said Richard Shaw, Southern Regional Technical Service Manager Bayer CropScience, based in Kansas City, Mo.
Shaw provided a “vision to where we're going” during a recent Southwest cotton technology conference in San Antonio.
“Our goal is to be the global leader in the crop science industry,” Shaw said. “We will continue to focus on what we're good at.”
But, Shaw said the company will adapt to the changing needs of farmers and consumers. He said the future likely will see fewer basic chemical manufacturers and “less emphasis on synthetic research. Consolidation within the industry has been significant,” he said. “And many companies are switching emphasis to bio-technology investments. We have less proprietary chemistry and a growth of non-proprietary companies. We will concentrate on products with a distinct added value. That's crucial for research and development.”
He said regulatory requirements have increased and likely will continue to do so. “We will place more emphasis on toxicology early in the development process.” He said new modes of activity will play important roles in screening processes, “especially for insecticides, herbicides and fungicides.”
Shaw said beyond “the visible horizon,” Bayer CropScience will invent new molecules as well as invest in bioscience. “We have pledged to maintain research and development funding at 10 percent of annual sales. We intend to identify at least three new active ingredients every year. A focus on growth is essential to expand our product line.” Protecting those lines will be equally important. “We will use more rigid standards to guard proprietary knowledge,” he said. “Technology is short-lived and expensive to develop. We plan to shorten the time from announcement (of a new product) to commercial sale.”
Shaw said chemistry of the future will focus on low dosage rates, targeted activity and improved application technology, low toxicity to non-target organisms and compatibility with genetically modified crops.
He said Bayer will continue to focus on integrated systems, such as the cotton product line that includes FiberMax varieties with both Roundup Ready, Bollgard and Liberty Link traits, as well as fiber characteristics.
“We also hope to use our Certified FiberMax program to help farmers capitalize on quality traits.”
Shaw said new products, including Oberon insecticide and a new, and as of yet unnamed plant growth regulator, will enhance the cotton lineup.
Monty Christian, director of marketing, FiberMax Cotton Seed, said acquisition of an established West Texas seed company, Associated Farmers Delinting (a deal finalized during the conference proceedings), adds to the cotton portfolio.
Christian also said during a Farm Press interview at the recent Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans that cotton breeders face the daunting challenge of maintaining high yield potential while improving cotton quality characteristics.
“Yield remains essential,” he said, “but fiber quality has become important. We can get both today. That's our big challenge.”
He said FiberMax 832 is the benchmark for the company's breeders. “We can't get below that,” he said.
Producing high yields of a consistently high quality cotton, Christian said, will attract buyers to a region. “If a mill knows it can get consistently high quality, that will be a big advantage,” he said. “And if our farm program changes direction, we will need market tools. We want to offer cotton varieties with the specific quality traits that mills want.”
He said research also will consider varieties with improved stress tolerance.