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Fighting Disease – Inside and Out
Disease is the silent killer of crops and can start deep inside the plant before manifesting as wilting, browning, molding, and rotting. Through a combination of scientific innovations, technology, and products, we offer farmers tailored solutions to not only spot disease early but prevent it from taking hold altogether.
Using data science and artificial intelligence to identify diseases early
Through the use of artificial intelligence known as machine learning, we are able to discover and diagnose crop diseases in real time right from the field. The ability to identify and address diseases quickly can have a huge impact on a farmer’s time, resources, and ultimately the productivity of their crops.
The rise of digitalization and data has opened a wealth of new opportunities for farmers. Remote sensors, satellites, and drones can monitor plant health, soil conditions, temperature, nitrogen utilization and much more 24/7. Artificial intelligence (AI) tools analyze this overwhelming amount of data at high speeds and funnel it back to farmers in the form of useful insights, helping them make critical, timely, in-field decisions. For example, satellite and drone imagery, and sensors on the cameras can detect small parts of a field that are inflicted by disease, and a farmer acts on that information and treats that tiny area with a targeted application. Just a few years ago, a farmer might not have detected the crop disease until a widely visible area of a field was inflicted and would have needed to spray the entire field vs. treating a tiny portion.
Microbes are microscopic organisms in the soil and they have a symbiotic relationship with plants, helping crops thrive. In agriculture, we are developing products containing microbes that can be applied to the surface of seeds and complement — or provide an alternative to — chemical crop protection products. Bayer is working to create microbials that use beneficial fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms to help plants better absorb nutrients and ward off pests and disease.
The most common crop diseases are spread by fungi on leaf surfaces and environmental elements like the wind and rain help spread the fungal spores to nearby plants, posing a serious threat to a farmer’s crop. These fungal pathogens are responsible for crop losses of up to 30% worldwide. Innovative solutions like fungicides are a critical tool for farmers to control the spread of fungi-born diseases. Innovations like digital tools that help farmers identify infestations early and chemical controls like fungicides help farmers protect their harvest. Fungicides work by inhibiting the growth of the fungus or destroying it completely. At Bayer we work to provide fungicides that help farmers combat fungi and diseases and are safe for the environment and the food supply.
Plant breeding and biotechnology for disease resistance
Humans have been using plant breeding techniques to improve food and crops for thousands of years. By cross-breeding plants that have shown a natural resistance to certain diseases, we can create crops more likely to thrive despite the threat of plant disease.
In the 1980s, scientists began using biotechnology, a method of transferring beneficial genes like disease resistance directly into a plant without the long process of trial and error of traditional breeding techniques. For example, the Hawaiian papaya industry was being devastated by the Papaya Ringspot virus. Using biotechnology, scientists were able to save the Rainbow Papaya by inserting a gene that allowed the plant to resist the disease and thrive. Today, thanks to biotechnology, the world continues to enjoy this fruit.
At Bayer, we use biotechnology, in combination with plant breeding, to develop crops that are resistance to plant-specific diseases, preventing diseases before they start.