Genetics innovation key to tackling future challenges

Developing genetically advanced oilseed rape and wheat varieties which complement crop protection chemicals is becoming more important for tackling problems growers face.

Arable farmers face a growing number of challenges – climate change, disease, and dwindling chemicals, while trying to feed a swelling global population.

Genetics, will increasingly play an important role in dealing with these challenges, says Sarah Middleton, BASF’s seed and traits marketing manager.

“Even over the last five years, we’ve had two autumns that have been very dry – this year’s hot and dry summer has only added to those (un)seasonal challenges. We’ve been asking – ‘do we need to be breeding more drought tolerant varieties?’,” says Ms Middleton.

With it becoming increasingly difficult and costly to register new chemicals, big agri-businesses are taking a more holistic approach.

This means balancing investment between genetic research for new seed varieties and traits, developing digital tools, and new active ingredients is key, explains Ms Middleton – and farmers will need to consider how these can all be integrated across their farms.

Through BASF’s recent acquisition of Bayer businesses and assets, the company added seeds to its business for the first time, taking over 200 regional seed production and breeding facilities.

Over the last decade, BASF has made significant investments in technology and innovation which help growers mitigate risk with a combination of chemistry and plant breeding.

“One example is Clearfield® oilseed rape (OSR), which is resistant to BASF herbicides and was developed as a complete solution to weed control in oilseed rape”, says Ms Middleton.

“It was introduced to the UK in 2014, and has improved yield and quality so much, that it already accounts for more than 10% of the market”.

New innovations to expect

Research and innovation are an essential part of BASF’s focus for the future.

A major new patented pod shatter reduction (PSR) trait is expected to be launched in the UK within the next 3-5 years.

Already launched through InVigor® hybrids in the US and Canada, “it has totally revolutionised how OSR is grown in the US,” says Ms Middleton.

“Their weather can be extreme – with intense hailstorms or even heavy snow falling at harvest time – this has helped to add an insurance against that. It gives a much higher level of pod shatter reduction than we see in today’s best UK hybrids”

Recent data published by the Met Office has confirmed that extreme weather in the UK is becoming more frequent, with heavy rain at harvest time being a common, but unwelcome, feature.

This revolutionary PSR trait would reduce the need for pre-harvest desiccation, allowing the crop to ripen naturally, without vulnerability to pod shatter.

Also, in the development pipeline, are clubroot tolerant hybrids, and Clearfield® tolerant winter and spring OSR hybrids.

Crop Breeding seminar at The CropTec Show

BASF’s InVigor® is sponsoring the Crop Breeding seminar programme at The CropTec Show. The session will explore how the expansion of hybrids and end-use traits has revolutionised the UK market over the last 10 years, as well as what the next big developments in wheat and oilseed rape are expected to be.

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