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Company Pushes Idea of a New Revolution

The combination of limited ag land, population growth and climate change has at least one firm announcing some changes.

Bayer CropScience is changing its research to more closely match what it calls the "new agricultural economy." According to a press statement issued today, Friedrich Berschauer, chairman of the board of Bayer CropScience AG, says the company will boost its annual research to $1.02 billion by 2015 - which is a 22% boost from about $838 million currently being spent.

Berschauer made the announcement during the company's annual press conference in Monheim, Germany. He told reporters that limited ag lands, uninterrupted growth in the world's population and the impact of climate change are threatening the supply of agricultural products and are leading to shortage-driven prices for major commodities.

Calling this change the "silent agricultural revolution" he says Bayer CropScience expects the use of ag raw materials for production of biofuels to rise considerably, which will benefit both the seed and crop protection market. "Innovation and constant technological progress are the only way to overcome this challenge," he says.

The rising research budget will focus on such areas as new modes of action in crop protection, improved plant health along with optimized plant characteristics and new agronomic traits. The company will also increase its emphasis on herbicide tolerance, insect resistance and boosting yields. The company, along with its competitors, is already at work on new biotech approaches to make plants resistant to a number of stresses including drought, cold and soil salinity. The first products from the stress tolerance research program are expected in the market by 2015.

Adds Berschauer: "The increase in productivity which we will need to achieve in agriculture in the coming years will only be possible with modern crop protection and the new approaches offered by plant breeding and plant biotechnology."

The company is already at work to bring 26 new active substances to the crop protection market by 2011. Seventeen of these have already been brought to market. The company is also active in the seed and biotech markets with 40 lead projects, including six herbicide tolerance and insect tolerance projects in a late stage of development. These will start entering the market by 2010.

The company is even looking at the biofuels market and some alternative products including Jatropha curcas - an oil-bearing shrub with inedible fruit that grows in arid regions. The seeds have more than 30% oil, which can be used to make low-pollutant biodiesel, the company claims. Jatropha can be cultivated on marginal land in tropical and sub-tropical regions, which would be land unsuitable for food crops. Berschauer says he hopes the research in this area "will be a major contribution to the development of a sustainable biofuel industry."

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