I’ve always loved the simplicity of the expression, “tools of the trade.” The tool is the instrument that gets the job done in support of the trade of its user. Painters use paints, solvents, and brushes, while carpenters use an assortment of saws, hammers, drills, screws, and nails. Every industry has its own tools, without which its business could not thrive or even function, and agriculture is no exception — especially when it comes to managing destructive weeds.
Weeds compete with crops for sunlight, water, and nutrients and are one of the biggest threats to a successful harvest. There’s no single solution when it comes to controlling weeds, and growers rely on a diverse set of tools and practices, including crop rotation, cover crops, and herbicides. Because every field contains millions of weed seeds waiting to emerge, farmers must wage a constant battle to protect their crops (and livelihood) each season using herbicides as a key tool.
Weeds are not only abundant, but they’re also constantly evolving, as selection pressures cull the more vulnerable weeds in favor of those that are more adaptable. These “problem weeds” have become difficult to control using treatments that were once very effective. That’s why in June 2019, we announced plans to invest some 5 billion Euro ($5.5 Billion) in new weed control methods over the next 10 years.
Managing weeds that have become resistant to certain herbicides is a big concern. It’s one that I’ve experienced first-hand on my family farm with water hemp in my fields. Overcoming this challenge takes a holistic approach involving a combination of new crop varieties and herbicides with multiple mechanisms of action to reduce the likelihood of resistance development. The Xtend System, along with the dicamba-based XtendiMax® herbicide, is one such toolset from Bayer to help soybean and cotton growers control problem weeds, such as Palmer amaranth (or pigweed).
Dicamba, the active ingredient in XtendiMax, is a well-known herbicide that farmers and homeowners have used for decades to control many broadleaf weeds. Because dicamba has a higher volatility than some other herbicides, Bayer introduced its VaporGrip® Technology, which is unique because it reduces the volatility potential of dicamba by 90 percent compared to the older dicamba products. This reduction in volatility enables soybean and cotton growers to use dicamba in new ways, adding another important tool to many growers’ weed management practices.
While U.S. growers have many choices when it comes to the seeds they grow and the herbicides they apply, they continue to choose Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, XtendFlex cotton and XtendiMax herbicide. In 2020, we expect Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans and XtendFlex cotton to be planted on about 60 million acres which equates to well over half of the total estimated U.S. soybean acres and over 70 percent of the total estimated U.S. cotton acres. Additionally, since 2018 Bayer has trained more than 84,000 growers and certified applicators on how to get the best performance possible while also helping to ensure label compliance and successful on-target applications. These efforts are paying off. The vast majority of customers are having success with on-target applications and more than 90 percent of customers surveyed are satisfied with the weed performance they are getting — which helps explain why the Xtend System has seen a significant increase in planted acres each year since its commercial introduction in 2017.
As in any other industry, there is no one-size-fits-all tool. Farmers need access to a variety of weed management tools and practices. Every new technology introduction gives us the opportunity to engage growers, learn from them, and help ensure they can use our products to their full potential. The success of the Xtend System and XtendiMax is spreading far beyond the U.S. markets. And many South American soybean farmers look forward to the launch of the Xtend System and XtendiMax herbicide in the future.
We know that the same tools that are in demand today could become obsolete tomorrow. That’s why Bayer is the industry leader in research and development and is committed to continued innovation in dicamba formulation and development, as well as significant investments in new traits and technologies with tolerance to dicamba and other chemistries. For examples, we’re evaluating new herbicides with novel modes of action to help farmers stay one step ahead of weed resistance. We’ve also made great progress on developing the generation of weed control for soybeans with an added tolerance to another herbicide, glufosinate. And by 2030 we expect to lead the industry by launching crops with tolerances to six herbicide classes.
I’ve seen a lot of changes in crop production during my lifelong involvement with farming. While agricultural tools of the trade will inevitably evolve to meet the changing dynamics within our industry, there is no doubt that they are essential to our global food security. Health for all, hunger for none is our vision at Bayer. Now more than ever, it’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure the world’s farmers have the tools they need to get the job done.