"At BASF, the ultimate goal with plant health is to help growers earn more per acre and meet the growing demand for agricultural raw materials," said Andy Lee, BASF Director of Business Operations, U.S. Crop Protection Products, opening up the company’s media symposium, The Science Behind plant health. In the U.S., growers are already benefiting from the plant health benefits of Headline® fungicide. plant health results from disease control with growth efficiency and stress tolerance benefits.
"Headline has brought a step-change technology to U.S. growers, who are seeing their yields per acre increase dramatically," said Lee. Citing the results of on-farm field trials from 2006, Lee pointed to average yield increases of 12 to 15 bushels per acre in corn and 4 to 8 bushels per acre in soybeans. "In 2005 and 2006, the prices for agricultural commodities were low, but growers were still getting a substantial return on their investment. With commodity prices up, growers using Headline will be getting even more profit per acre this year," he added.
Lee stressed the importance of technologies such as Headline as America’s growers meet rapidly increasing demand for their grain – to fuel ethanol and biodiesel, as well as export markets. "We can no longer afford to wait. Much of the success of this industry depends on this technology. The growing demand for ethanol and biodiesel necessitates an increase in production, and technology is helping make that happen today. BASF is and will continue to be at the forefront of this new area of scientific discovery."
Two years ago, BASF made a substantial increase in its global plant health research and development outlays. At the same time, it bundled its plant health research activities. "With this investment, we’re making a commitment to the confidence growers have put in our plant health products in the U.S. and elsewhere," said Lee.
Fresh findings in water-use efficiency and frost tolerance
Promising results in drought tolerance research were among the current and future BASF plant health findings presented today at The Science Behind plant health media symposium.
"A series of trials we conducted last year in wheat confirmed that our plant health fungicide F 500® provides not only disease control but improves water-use efficiency and yield," said Dr. Dirk Voeste, Head of Global plant health Research for BASF.
"We know that when plants are under stress, it costs yield," said Dr. Voeste. "Our plant health products, such as the fungicide Headline with F 500, help plants fight disease to perform better and adapt to a variety of stress factors. The result, as we’ve seen in numerous field trials, is higher yields. We’re very excited about last year’s findings, which showed that wheat treated with F 500 produces more yield than untreated plants under suboptimal water conditions. Drought is one of the most economically devastating forms of stress."
Preliminary results fresh from BASF’s research facilities in the U.S. indicate that corn and soybeans respond similarly well to drought stress after treatment with Headline® fungicide.
Encouraged by last year’s findings, BASF has formed collaborative partnerships with two international research institutes, ICRISAT and ICARDA. "These institutes are leaders in understanding how drought affects plants. We are working with them to help turn our research findings into solutions that will help growers get more yield per acre under drought conditions," Dr. Voeste said. "In these research partnerships, BASF is focusing on water-use efficiency in corn, soy and wheat.
These preliminary drought findings were announced for the first time today at the symposium. Lab findings also showed that corn treated with Headline held up much better under frost conditions than untreated plants.
"This is very exciting and very relevant," said Gary Fellows, Ph.D., Technical Marketing Manager for corn and soybean fungicides and herbicides at BASF. The drought and cold-tolerance results produced by Dr. Fellows and his team are helping BASF better understand how plants tick and how innovative crop protection products can help.
The frost trials, conducted in recent weeks, showed Headline treated corn at the one-leaf stage (3 to 4 inches) had a 70% survival rate after 3 hours of freezing conditions, compared to only 45% for untreated.
Global Plant Health research powerhouse
Helping plants survive frost and use water more efficiently are just two aspects of plant health research at BASF, The Chemical Company. Dr. Voeste, working out of the company’s agricultural research center in Germany, addressed the yield challenge head on. "Since Carl Bosch invented a way to fix atmospheric nitrogen in ammonia on a commercial scale at BASF’s main chemical plant in Ludwigshafen, Germany, in 1913, advances in crop protection and plant breeding have brought quantum yield leaps," said Dr. Voeste. "We see the greatest potential for future yield gains in two areas: plant biotechnology and innovative chemistry with plant health effects." BASF is conducting research in both of these areas.
According to Dr. Voeste, plant health is about optimizing the condition of a plant during its life cycle. Disease control, higher growth performance and improved tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress help plants to reach their yield and quality potential. BASF’s plant health research facilities are digging deeper to understand how innovative chemistry works in the plant to influence these parameters.
plant health research at BASF currently has three areas of focus. To begin with, scientists on Voeste’s team are working to expand the company’s portfolio of products with plant health effects. This includes identifying additional active ingredients with yield and quality boosting effects and formulating them to best utilize these effects. This year, the company is also telling growers how to fight disease and insect pressures to help boost yield and quality with products containing the fungicide boscalid and the insecticide fipronil.
A second area of focus is extending the BASF plant health portfolio to include new crops. While research at BASF is being done with many species of plants, from strawberries to lettuce and more, the media symposium focused on the two largest commercially-grown row crops in the United States: corn and soybeans. With the rising demand for corn and soybean feedstock to fuel bioethanol and biodiesel plants and meet export markets, healthy, more productive plants are critical to the American agricultural economy and the U.S. economy as a whole.
Lastly, the Plant Health research team takes the results of lab and field trial work and turns them into hands-on recommendations for growers. For example, a series of field trials conducted in the United States last year is allowing BASF to advise growers on parameters such as timing, varieties and geography.
With sales of €3,298 million in 2005, BASF’s Agricultural Products division is a leader in crop protection and a strong partner to the farming industry providing well-established and innovative fungicides, insecticides and herbicides. Farmers use these products and services to improve crop yields and crop quality. Other uses include public health, structural/urban pest control, turf and ornamental plants, vegetation management, and forestry. BASF aims to turn knowledge rapidly into market success. The vision of BASF’s Agricultural Products division is to be the world’s leading innovator, optimizing agricultural production, improving nutrition, and thus enhancing the quality of life for a growing world population. Further information can be found on the web at www.agro.basf.com.
BASF is the world’s leading chemical company: The Chemical Company. Its portfolio ranges from chemicals, plastics, performance products, agricultural products and fine chemicals to crude oil and natural gas. As a reliable partner to virtually all industries, BASF’s high-value products and intelligent system solutions help its customers to be more successful. BASF develops new technologies and uses them to meet the challenges of the future and open up additional market opportunities. It combines economic success with environmental protection and social responsibility, thus contributing to a better future. BASF has over 95,000 employees and posted sales of €52.6 billion (approximately $66.1 billion) in 2006. Further information on BASF is available on the Internet at www.basf.com.
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