In the past Australia had a reputation as somewhat of a backwater for the crop protection sector, with a relatively small market meaning the global giants focused on more lucrative, larger regions and Aussie farmers got chemistry designed primarily for other conditions.
However, BASF Australia New Zealand head of agriculture Gavin Jackson said that perception could not be further from the truth now, with major companies having Australia front and centre in their planning for our key crops such as cereals, oilseeds and pulses.
"Australia is regarded as a really important part of that global ecosystem of crop protection R&D (research and development) these days," he said.
"The strong R&D sector here, combined with the efficient regulatory system means that Australia is now at the front of the queue when it comes to new chemistry."
"From our business' point of view our headquarters in Germany are in constant dialogue with the Australian arm about what is in the pipeline."
Mr Jackson said there had also been additional focus on crops important to Australia such as wheat after many companies had concentrated efforts on the North American row crops such as corn and soybeans.
All this adds up to a vote of confidence in Australian agriculture he said.
"It is a huge job just to get a product to market, with the regulatory work it is five to ten years in the pipeline and probably close to a billion dollar spend, so as a business we have to have absolute faith in what we are developing is going to work and going to be used by growers."
He said BASF was acutely aware of the need to produce more food, more sustainably.
"By 2050 we're going to have to increase food production by 60 per cent just to keep up with the growing population and we are also aware of the need to be more sustainable."
"The SSS (sustainability solution steering) framework is front of mind with everything we do at BASF."
Mr Jackson said BASF was looking at a holistic approach to work with growers to boost productivity.
"Crop protection is just one part of the business, we are also very strong in seeds here in Australia as you can see from our canola program which has launched over 10 new varieties along with a range of new traits."
"You can see how non-chemical traits can make a massive difference, something like PodGuard, which we've developed in canola to stop pod shatter and associated yield loss, has made a massive difference in Canada."
"It does not grow you any more crop yet yields go up as there is no seed spilling out onto the ground."
On the crop protection front locally he said BASF had been particularly pleased with a trio of new products, Luximax, Voraxor and Frequency.
Mr Jackson said Luximax, a selective herbicide used primarily to control ryegrass in wheat, was a demonstration of how Australia was leading the world in research.
"Luximax is an important global first, it's the only cineole-based herbicide on the market, it fits within the Group 30, formerly Group T group of chemistry, and only came about because of Australian research."
Trials at BASF's Tamworth research farm were the backbone of the decision by the business to push forward with registration of the product.
Mr Jackson said Australia was the first market to sell the product by several years in 2019.
"It's only just launched globally this year."
He said the product was playing a valuable role in offering growers a break from existing chemistries and lowering the risk of resistance.
"We're recommending the "30-30" rule, use Luximax, a group 30 product, on 30 per cent of your wheat crop each year to rotate the chemistries around."
Voraxor, a broadleaf herbicide, has also benefited from research from the Tamworth team.
"Our global team had their doubts about this molecule's market fit and benefit to growers, but our Aussie team saw the data collected at Tamworth and advocated strongly for it as they saw a real fit for it in terms of Australian cropping systems."
"Results from local testing enabled the Australia team to clearly demonstrate the global colleagues the value proposition in field and now we see the product available globally, with strong demand in other markets as well as Australia."
BASF's development team at Tamworth were evaluating Frequency Herbicide for broadleaf weed control when they discovered unique activity for management of wild oats.
This holistic trial system, looking at innovation more broadly than a specific singular product focus, delivers a real benefit in this case discovering its impact on wild oats. Subsequent tests also uncovered further benefits for post-emergent weed control in Australia.
As such, this formulation is now on the market for Australian growers and not sold anywhere else.
Frequency is a story of how field work can redefine expectations.
"For me, Frequency shows how valuable having your own research team can be."
"Originally we were investigating Frequency for its impact on broadleaf weeds when the trial team noticed just how it was knocking around wild oats.
"That is the benefit of having a field team out there looking and observing you can pick up those things you weren't expecting and investigate it further and that is what has happened here, we've got a unique method for controlling wild oats along with other post-emergent weed control benefits."
"Frequency is now on the market in Australia, and the formulation is not available anywhere else."
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