Bayer’s business division Crop Science is working on new ways of making the application of crop protection products even safer, in order to minimize risks and optimize impact. Crop protection products must be applied in a way that ensures the safety of farm workers, consumers and the environment. And with innovative technologies such as new sprayers and a kind of vacuum cleaner for sowing equipment, Bayer is endeavoring to do precisely that. “We farmers have to do right by the environment and the people. That means we need to apply crop protection products as carefully as possible,” says Stephan Muenks, a farmer from Meerbusch, close to Düsseldorf. Muenks is putting his faith in the efforts of Reinhard Friessleben, Head of Application Technology at Crop Science. Friessleben works to optimize the application of crop protection products without limiting their effectiveness. The various technologies his team has developed are as different as the crops themselves.
Easy does it!
Bayer’s efforts to protect the environment begin long before the product reaches the fields. The easyFlow technology ensures a safe, flush connection between tank and canister when the tanks are being filled with liquid product. “That stops any of it from being spilled,” says Friessleben. Bayer developed the easyFlow adapter in collaboration with nozzle specialist agrotop. easyFlow is made up of two elements – the tank adapter and the canister adapter – that fit together like a key in a lock, allowing the liquid to be transferred without contamination and at the right dosage. This stops drips from polluting the soil underneath and from getting into neighboring waterways and wastewater systems. Farmworkers, too, are protected, as they do not come into contact with the chemical substances. A hose can be attached to rinse the canister when it is partially empty or to wash it out completely once the entire contents have been emptied. This makes sure every drop of the crop protection product is used and does not become harmful waste.
easyFlow has already demonstrated its value for farmers. Friessleben reports that it received the silver medal at the Agritechnica trade fair in Hanover in 2013. He is also proud that the technology met with “a very positive response” at SIMA, the Paris International Agri-Business Show, in February 2015.
Because the right crop protection needs the right appliance, Bayer is working on other agri-business innovations, too. It wants to get the use of Dropleg sprayers established on canola fields. These sprayers have already proved their worth for spraying cotton and vegetables, for example. Dropleg sprayers have much lower nozzles that deliver crop protection products underneath the crop canopy instead of from above. “That reduces spray drift and avoids crop protection products getting on the flowers,” explains Friessleben. “It protects bees and other pollinators.” The trials of the Dropleg sprayers are almost complete, and results have been positive. Friessleben is now working closely with authorities and manufacturers to prepare for the technology’s broad market launch.
Dropleg application technology
Seed treatment is a special kind of crop protection, applied early on in a plant’s life. It helps keep seeds and seedlings free from pests and fungi for a good period after planting. “And that means there is less need for subsequent insecticide and fungicide applications,” Friessleben points out.
But if the chemicals are not applied properly, they can rub off and during planting they can find their way into the environment. This has led to the prohibition of certain seed dressings, which has caused high harvest losses for many farmers. With its Zero Dust project, Bayer aims to ensure minimal dust release when planting treated seeds, thus reducing environmental threats. To do this, it is improving seed dressing formulations and coatings so that the active ingredients stay on the seed.
Improving seed drills could help, too. Modern vacuum seed drills suck the seeds onto a sowing disk in a process that can release harmful dust into the environment. “Only a small proportion of that dust is chemical dust,” says Friessleben, “but that’s precisely what we’re hoping to eliminate.” The experts at Bayer are working on SweepAir, an innovative air-cleaning technology for sowing equipment. It collects the dust released during planting like a vacuum cleaner. The air is drawn into the cyclone, where centrifugal forces separate the dust, which sinks to the bottom of the cyclone and is expelled, allowing it to then be buried in the ground together with the seeds. The filtered air is released close to the ground.
We must ensure that crop protection products end upt only where they are needed.
Karl-Hans Wellen, who runs an agricultural service agency in Krefeld, tested the SweepAir prototype in 2014, using it to plant over 100 hectares of corn. He believes that tremendous progress has been made: “We were able to reduce harmful particles by 99 percent. So the system works. Now we just have to make it even better.” Wellen advises farmers interested in purchasing the device. “As this technology doesn’t come cheap, it’s important that they are aware of all the advantages and disadvantages,” adds Wellen.
Farmer Stephan Muenks feels a moral obligation to drive development forward. He made his fields available for the trials and is convinced that using the device offers a clear advantage, as it reduces the risk of releasing harmful particles into the environment. Because of his belief in SweepAir’s potential for protecting the environment, Muenks is allowing further trials to take place on his land. With four other colleagues, Friessleben is setting up a global network of experts in this area. “Collaboration is hugely important,” he says. “Among others, we’re working with environmental stewards in many countries in order to bring the various technologies to market successfully and to educate farm workers.” A range of new projects are already in the pipeline for the coming years, with the goal of making the application of Bayer products more effective and safer for people and the environment.
As a farmer, an intact environment is in my best interests.