Bayer CropScience hopes to introduce its own wheat variety in seven or eight years.
That's according to Peter Peerbolte, Bayer CropScience's cereals manager. Peerbolte was in the Red River Valley at the company's research farm near Sabin, Minn., for a field day.
Bayer CropScience has purchased, formed partnerships and signed licensing agreements with several seed companies around the world in recent years. It also is supporting wheat breeding programs in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Saskatchewan. It will be building its wheat breeding headquarters in Lincoln, Neb., near the University of Nebraska. Bayer has an agreement with the University of Nebraska to share germplasm.
Peerbolte says that future Bayer CropScience varieties for the Dakotas and Minnesota could come from crosses with lines from Nebraska, Ukraine, Israel, Australia and France.
The company is investing millions in wheat variety development because the company expected a "huge increase" in demand for wheat as the world population and middle class increase, according to Peerbolte.
Several other companies have announced similar wheat breeding initiatives in recent years.
"It's a race" to develop new varieties with breakthrough yield traits, Peerbolte says. Bayer's on track to have such traits – whether through genetic modification or traditional breeding methods -- in 10-11 years.
Bayer CropScience's latest wheat development deal is with the privately-owned company RAGT Semences S.A.S., based in Rodez, France. Under the agreement, RAGT grants Bayer CropScience access to winter wheat germplasm and associated molecular markers. In addition, both companies will explore joint projects to further improve wheat breeding and RAGT will have options to license wheat traits from Bayer CropScience.
The French company is said to have one of the strongest winter wheat breeding programs in Europe.
"We are very excited about our partnership with RAGT and the opportunities it will bring in the future. This mutually beneficial agreement will further strengthen the wheat breeding programs of both partners," said Sandra E. Peterson, Chairman and CEO of Bayer CropScience, in a release announcingthe RAGT deal. "This licensing and cooperation agreement is another important step to achieve our goal: To improve sustainable cereal production with superior solutions based on our leading crop protection portfolio, agricultural service solutions and best in class wheat varieties. These solutions will enable growers to increase the productivity of wheat in a sustainable way addressing challenges like climate change."