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Bayer CropScience expands business with a new line of wheat varieties

By Doug Rich

Bayer CropScience hopes to have new wheat varieties ready for the U.S. marketplace by 2015. This is part of Bayer's overall plan to expand its BioScience business by building significant positions in soybeans, rice, and wheat. These three crops represent three of the four most important broad acre crops in the world.

At Bayer's annual global press conference in Monheim, Germany, Sandra Peterson, Bayer CropScience CEO, outlined the four pillars that make up their strategic road map for success. The four pillars include rejuvenating its core crop protection business, reinventing customer-centricity along the entire value chain, refocusing its innovation through increased R&D investment, and extending the company's BioScience business.

"Just as rice is the staple crop of the East, wheat is the staple crop of the West," Peterson said. "Wheat is grown across a larger area than any other crop in the world, but production is falling behind that of other crops which have a higher profitability. We predict that wheat stocks will be under continued pressure from rising global demand and by 2020 we forecast that demand will rise 17 percent over 2010 levels to reach 755 million tons while supply will fall short of that number by several million tons."

Bayer CropScience believes that new technology can help fill that gap in production. Peterson said Bayer would be investing in the development of new wheat varieties and new traits.

"The initial focus of our program is on productivity," Peterson said.

Bayer will use both genetically modified and non-genetically modified approaches in their breeding program. To speed up the development of new varieties Bayer has entered into a series of alliances and cooperations with the best partners in the wheat market.

"When our global customers turned to us to find new ways to raise productivity of wheat cropping, we listened to them and built a world-class research platform for wheat genetics," Peterson said.

Rudiger Scheitza, Ph.D., strategy and business management labor director at Bayer, said investing in wheat and particularly GMO wheat is a calculated risk. Bayer wants to become a more broad-based supplier for the agricultural industry.

"We see in the U.S. and other places good potential in yield as well as other traits," Scheitza said. "Which is one of the reasons we decided to go into wheat breeding and wheat GMO varieties."

Investing in GMO varieties is a risk they are taking. There are no guarantees that GMO varieties will ever be accepted.

Scheitza said it takes about 10 years to develop a new chemical from scratch to release in the marketplace. A similar investment is needed to develop a new wheat variety. If their gamble does not pay off they have burned the amount of money it would take to develop a new chemical.

"We think there are great opportunities for our industry and there will be a payback for our investment," Scheitza said. "We will be ready once GMO technology is accepted in the marketplace."

Building on these four pillars Peterson said their goal is to deliver seed to shelf solutions that exceed the expectations of our global customers.

"Over the past 10 years, we have demonstrated that we can establish global BioScience leadership positions in those markets in which we choose to compete," Peterson said.

Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by e-mail at richhpj@aol.com.

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