Martin Gruss

Seeding the Future: Bayer SeedGrowth 2017

Goodbye 2017, hello 2018: an exciting year lies behind us. Together with our partners along the entire value chain – from growers and treaters to breeders – we tackled some really big challenges in the seed treatment business. But there was also time to celebrate great successes.

The global seed treatment market seems to be on a steady growth path, with growers continuously experiencing the advantages of seed enhancement. Besides higher seed value and the consequential cost-effectiveness of seed treatments, the ever-increasing use of biological seed treatments is one important growth factor. And it is a factor that also features prominently in our four Bayer SeedGrowth™ competence areas. One example is our seed treatment product Poncho™/VOTiVO™, which was taken to the next level with the launch of Poncho/VOTiVO 2.0 in corn. Through the addition of a second complementary bacterium, Poncho/VOTiVO 2.0 increases the productivity of the soil around the root, making more nutrients available for the plant to use – for even better yield potential.

Of course, it’s not only corn seedlings that need the best starting conditions. Among many other crops, soybeans also require targeted protection and care. Since they are usually planted in a short timeframe, they are highly exposed to the risks of adverse weather events or disease outbreaks and thus heavily rely on seed treatments to protect the seedlings during these vulnerable stages. ILeVO™ is a tried and trusted soybean seed treatment. It protects soybean seedlings against sudden death syndrome (SDS) and nematodes such as the soybean cyst nematode (SCN) – two of the most yield-destructive pathogens in the U.S. In the 2014 season, growers suffered cumulative losses attributable to SCN and SDS of 125 million and 62 million bushels, respectively, which is roughly equivalent to 1.6 billion U.S. Dollars1. 2017 was the third season in which soybean growers in the U.S. used ILeVO – increasing yields by 2 to 10 bushels per acre thanks to its effective protection.

Martin Gruss
Martin Gruss
Martin Gruss, 
Global Head SeedGrowth at Bayer Division Crop Science

In addition to seed treatment products, coatings are also gaining importance due to the demand for better properties of the treated seed, including good flowability and reduced dust-off. To offer our customers an even better and more transparent product range, we restructured our seed coatings product line in 2017. With our range of Peridiam™ solutions, we now provide even more targeted coating solutions for different crops, climate conditions, and market needs.

Since soybeans are usually planted in a short timeframe, they are highly exposed to adverse weather or disease outbreaks.
Since soybeans are usually planted in a short timeframe, they are highly exposed to adverse weather or disease outbreaks.
Since soybeans are usually planted in a short timeframe, they are highly exposed to adverse weather or disease outbreaks. Seed treatments protect the seedlings during these vulnerable stages.

Bayer SeedGrowth world tour

Connecting with our grower, treater, and breeder customers is always a core priority. That’s why we once again showed a strong presence at industry meetings last year. Bayer SeedGrowth took this opportunity to meet with partners and customers, for example at the ISF World Seed Congress 2017 in Budapest, the European Seed Association (ESA) Annual Meeting in Riga, the American Seed Trade Association’s (ASTA) CSS 2017 & Seed Expo in Chicago, the Seed Congress of the Americas in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, and the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) Congress in Dakar, Senegal. There we were able to strengthen our bonds with long-standing partners, including the European Seed Association or ASTA, and many customers. Always with the aim of delivering even better products, equipment, coatings, and services to our customers.

Facing responsibilities

However, as you all know, it’s not always sunshine and roses in our sector. The safety of pollinators increasingly became the focus of attention and inspired many controversial debates. Product Stewardship has always been a prime focus and is certainly a strong argument in those discussions – the Zero Dust Project is a great example in this context. This project has many different aspects – SweepAir and AirWasher are only two of the better known technological outcomes to clean the air of dust emissions and also reduce worker exposure. In our global formulation technology laboratory in the U.S., for example, we are currently optimizing several seed treatment products for cereals. Products launched from this year onwards will be characterized by even lower dust emissions. Another exciting development we brought to market in 2017 was BaySTEP. This add-on product for batch treaters helps operators determine the exact endpoint of the seed treatment process. Its benefits include achieving higher treatment quality and reducing the abrasion of seed treatment products to minimize dust and emissions.

Another major topic in 2017: the discussion about the risks and benefits of neonicotinoids. Talking to both growers and treaters, we continued to gather information on the effects of the European Commission’s restrictions imposed on three neonicotinoid insecticides in 2013. It comes as no surprise that there have been significant losses due to lower yield quality and increased production costs – up to 900 million Euros a year for European oilseed rape farmers alone2. In addition, numerous studies, including one by the EU Commission’s Joint Research Centre3, have shown that farmers use more, older, and less effective chemicals due to a lack of access to the three neonicotinoids in question. This also means more spraying replaces a singular seed treatment. Since we are convinced that neonicotinoids are safe when used responsibly and in accordance with label instructions, we will continue to argue against the proposed broad ban on neonicotinoids in the European Union. Right now, the European Commission is waiting for a report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which is expected in February, before putting further restrictions to a vote.

No doubt, 2017 was an exciting year for the whole seed treatment industry – and thus for Bayer SeedGrowth. And we are looking forward to continuing this journey with you.

If you want to learn more about our seed treatment expertise and past and future activities, click here.


1 University of Illinois:
2 HFFA research study on economic and environmental impacts of banning neonicotinoids in the EU
3 Kathage, J., Castañera, P., Alonso-Prados, J. L., Gómez-Barbero, M. and Rodríguez-Cerezo, E. (2017): The impact of restrictions on neonicotinoid and fipronil insecticides on pest management in maize, oilseed rape and sunflower in eight European Union regions. Pest. Manag. Sci. doi:10.1002/ps.4715

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