Bayer made the case this week that it’s in the best position to increase farm production to feed a growing world population while significantly reducing carbon emissions.

During presentations at a Chicago event – Regenerative Crop Systems for a Changing Planet – Bayer executives touted new products to protect crops from insects, weeds and fungi. Products include what they call 10 new “blockbusters” in the next 10 years, defined as having peak sales potential (PSP) of more than 500 million euros annually — about $537 million.

Perhaps foremost among its products is Preceon, a short-stature corn variety whose deep roots allow it to sequester more carbon and withstand high winds while still providing robust yields.

In all, Bayer said the products in its R&D pipeline have 32 billion euros’ worth of PSP – about $34.3 billion.

Bayer has struggled to regain its financial footing after buying Monsanto in 2016 for about $63 billion, a transaction that has been challenged by shareholder groups and pension funds. The company also has had to pay billions of dollars since the deal was inked to settle lawsuits alleging its Roundup herbicide causes cancer.

The company’s dicamba herbicide, Xtendimax, also has been the subject of controversy and lawsuits for damaging non-target crops and other vegetation. A court decision earlier this year vacated registrations for three dicamba products including Xtendimax.

Executives defend the product, for which Bayer has submitted a new label to EPA. The agency's timeline for review could stretch into late fall 2025, which would make it unavailable for the next growing season. Bayer officials say they plan for it to be available to growers by next year.

“We've been working very closely with the EPA,” Bayer Crop Science R&D head Bob Reiter said, calling the 17-month timeline “hypothetical.”

“There's ways that can be shortened so that we can see a label that farmers will be able to access for the growing season in 2025,” he said. “That's our Plan A and Plan B. That's what we're working toward.”

The Chicago presentations to reporters from the United States and around the world – including Mexico, Germany and Brazil – focused on products that Bayer says will provide value to growers and the company. Officials spoke of how their use of artificial intelligence and advanced technology such as gene editing enable them to bring new products to market faster. Bayer says in crop protection alone, it expects to introduce 90 to 100 new formulations in the next decade.

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The company said in a summary of its “blockbusters” that its new short- stature corn variety, Preceon, “will transform global corn production” and has the potential to deliver more than $1.6 billion in PSP. In Chicago, three Iowa farmers who have grown it attested to its performance.

preceon-bag.jpgAn oversized bag of Preceon at the site of Bayer's regenerative ag event. (Photo: Steve Davies) 

The corn, which has had a “soft” commercial U.S. launch in the U.S. covering 35,000 acres this year, has been bred with conventional methods to reach about seven feet tall. Bayer hopes to have a biotech version available in 2027 and plans a gene-edited version for global markets.

Both the yield potential and the shorter plants’ ability to withstand high winds are key benefits, the farmers said.

Corn and soybean farmer Kelly Nieuwenhuis, a well-known ethanol advocate, said he was impressed with yields, noting a neighbor of his won a National Corn Growers Association yield contest with Preceon, he said. The company says “aggregated data showed that average Preceon Smart Corn System yields were comparable to existing tall corn in the same area."

The lower height allows growers to get into their fields more easily to apply late-season nitrogen, said Bayer's Reiter.

“If you can actually get field access and drop fertilizer in August, that actually means you can think differently about your fertility when you apply fertilizer through the season,” he said in an interview following the event. “And that's more efficient in terms of providing new nutrition to the crop than it is if you dump all the fertilizer early in the year and then are basically asking it to last through the full growing season.”

“While those plants are still green in August and they're still growing, that fertility can still contribute to yield,” Reiter said.  

He said the plant produces bigger root systems that take up more carbon in addition to making the crop more resilient to drought.

Bayer also touted direct seeding of rice instead of the traditional transplanting. It introduced its direct-seeded rice (DSR) system in 2023 at the International Rice Congress in Manila.

“Moving from transplanted puddled rice cultivation to direct-seeded rice can help farmers reduce water use by up to 40%, greenhouse gas emissions by up to 45% and reduce farmers’ dependence on scarce and costly manual labor by up to 50%,” the company said in its Monday announcement.

Three-quarters of rice fields in India are expected to switch to DSR by 2040, Bayer said, compared to 11% today.

“By 2030, Bayer plans to bring the DSR system to nearly 2.5 million acres in India, supporting over two million early-adopter smallholder rice farmers through its DirectAcres program,” the company said. 

Other products include a new insecticide, Plenexos, expected to be available next year on a wide variety of crops to control sucking pests such as aphids and whiteflies. Bayer said it has a “favorable pollinator and beneficial toxicological profile [that] will ensure broad flexibility and a fit within Integrated Pest Management programs.”

Bayer also is developing a herbicide Icafolin, “the first new post-emergent herbicide mode of action for broadacre crops in 30 years with a peak sales potential of over 750 million euros.” Officials said it would complement, not supplant, glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.

The herbicide is scheduled to launch in 2028 in Brazil, with other countries to follow.

Other products on the way include a fourth-generation soy herbicide tolerance trait that will add HPPD (Mesotrione) and 2,4-D tolerance to existing traits that provide tolerance to glyphosate, glufosinate and dicamba. That will be followed by a fifth-generation soy herbicide tolerance trait that will also have tolerance to PPO herbicides. The full list is here.

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