Bayer expects to complete the deal on its acquisition of Monsanto in early 2018.
Speaking at its Future of Farming Dialogue event, president of the company’s Crop Science Division Liam Condon said in consultation with the European Commission, the company had applied to extend the review deadline until January 22, with the aim of facilitating an appropriate evaluation, given the size of the transaction.
“In view of this, an anticipated closing of the deal in early 2018 is now more likely than end of 2017,” said Mr Condon.
While the global seed and crop protection market remains volatile in 2017 after a weak prior year, high population growth, changing consumption patterns and increasing consumer demand for sustainably produced food will have a positive impact on food production, global agricultural trade and ultimately, farm income, predicted Mr Condon.
“Those factors combined with the steadily growing global demand for feed and biofuel feedstocks support a long-term increase in demand that will drive our business.”
Digital farming is a key focus for Bayer because of the scope it offers for optimising inputs as well as helping to meet society’s rising requirements in terms of transparency and sustainability, said Mr Condon.
“We are investing at least €200 million in our Digital Farming business between 2015 and 2020. We are collaborating closely with highly competent partners such as Bosch and FaunaPhotonics, universities, start-up companies and non-profit organisations like Quantified Planet.”
Other new players in agriculture include IBM through the internet of things, Blue River Technology, recently acquired by John Deere - which has developed sprayer technology capable of spraying only where the weed is present - and AeroFarms, involved in indoor vertical farming, according to Adrian Percy, global head of R&D for Bayer’s Crop Science Division.
Bayer has also recently joined forces with Ginko Bioworks to create a new company focused on the plant microbiome (microbial community). The new company’s research facilities will be based in the US and will focus on technologies to improve plant-associated microbes with a major focus on nitrogen fixation and how non-nitrogen fixing crops can be enabled to fix nitrogen.
In a panel discussion on regulation of crop protection products and seed, participants differed in their perception of post-Brexit scenarios. Graeme Taylor, director of public affairs at the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA), said Brexit presented a conundrum.
“It is an opportunity for the [UK] industry but there are also threats. If glyphosate is not approved and the UK decided to approve it the EU may decide not to import products treated with glyphosate and the situation for the UK may not be so great.
“The tools farmers have access to within the EU have been arbitrarily reduced from 1000 actives in 2009 to 450 today and there are restrictions on imports because of perceived societal issues. We could be in a situation where we cannot feed ourselves but will not allow anyone else to either.”
Garlich Von Essen, secretary general, EuroSeeds, said Brexit would ‘probably not’ present an opportunity for the UK. “The first thing the UK does is implement all EU law into UK law. If there are two different standards and companies have to operate to two different rules of law costs will go up. Whether it will be beneficial for companies to operate in the UK or start is doubtful.”
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute in Germany have identified a section of genetic material which confers resistance to Barley Yellow Dwarf Virus in maize, which could allow breeding of resistant strains in the future.
Although work has not been done to determine whether the research is applicable to barley, in areas where both crops are grown, maize with resistance to BYDV could help break the cycle whereby aphids transmit the virus to young cereal plants in autumn and migrate to young maize plants in spring, improving the situation in young cereals, according to Max Planck researcher Professor Dr Benjamin Stich.