GRDC in $9 million partnership with Bayer

GRDC Bayer partnership in search of glyphosate alternative


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Grains Research and Development Corporation teams with Bayer in a $9 million deal to find alternatives to glyphosate.

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Dr Steve Jefferies, GRDC, shared a chat with Campbell Hill, FarmStuff Campbell, after his address to growers at Ag-Grow 2019.

Dr Steve Jefferies, GRDC, shared a chat with Campbell Hill, FarmStuff Campbell, after his address to growers at Ag-Grow 2019.

A KEY official with the Grains Research and Development Corporation has confirmed a $9 million investment with Bayer to unlock alternatives to the herbicide glyphosate.

The German pharmaceutical and life sciences company will spend more than $8 billion researching new methods of weed control.

A Bayer spokesman said Bayer's investment would underwrite improvements in the understanding of resistance mechanisms, would help discover and develop new modes of action, further develop tailored Integrated Weed Management solutions and develop more precise recommendations through digital farming tools.

The spokesman also said Bayer believed glyphosate would continue to play an "important role" in agriculture and in its own business portfolio but the research investment into alternatives offered growers more choice.

Grain Growers chairman Brett Hosking has welcomed the Bayer move.

Similarly, GRDC director Steve Jefferies, speaking to an open forum at Ag-Grow 2019 in Emerald, said farmers and growers would reap benefits from a "tiny" side investment with Bayer.

"For companies like Bayer, Australia isn't a priority market because it is too small," Dr Jefferies said.

"Bayer tells us the cost of generating one product from initiation to regulation is, on average, $US250 million.

"That's close to double the whole GRDC spend. But for our $9m a year collaboration, we get Bayer to screen all of your problem weeds like Rhodes grass and fleabane and all those sort of things.

"We get all of their chemistry - and all of the chemistry goes across Australian wheat routinely.

"I can tell you that their focus is on finding completely different, new modes of action and through our investment they have found three new modes of action for control in our wheat.

"There is also a strong focus on knockdowns and selectives. Finding knockdowns is relatively easy. Finding safe knockdowns is not so easy. We're going to visit them in Germany in about a month and have a conversation about all of this.

"They are thinking about solutions such as biological and the like. We hope we can leverage them to pay more attention to Australian wheat with a small amount of money rather than throwing a bucket of money."

Mr Hosking said it was good to hear Bayer talking about sustainability but cautioned against overly optimistic hopes the investment would produce a similar herbicide like glyphosate.

"You have a look at the crop protection space over the last 30 years; there's been billions of dollars spent globally yet totally new modes of action for controlling weeds are few and far between," Mr Hosking said.

"It is great Bayer is putting this money into research, but it definitely does not assure them of success."

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