Bayer leaders tout commitment to West Texas cotton industry by highlighting new facilities and new varieties at recent field day.
By Vicky Boyd
It’s business as usual for Monheim, Germany-based Bayer as it continues the process of acquiring St. Louis-based Monsanto Inc.
“One of the key points is we are investing and operating as Bayer today, and that will continue because we don’t know what the future holds,” Lee Rivenbark, who heads Bayer’s North American Seed Operations, told attendees of the company’s recent cotton field day near Idalou, Texas. “We’re committed to this acquisition. We believe it’s good for the farmer.”
Although Rivenbark admitted the company still has several hurdles to overcome in the coming months, he says the goal is to have the deal finalized by the end of 2017.
As Bayer has done in the past, he says the new combined company will continue to invest 10 percent of sales into research and development.
Rivenbank highlighted a few of the recent investments Bayer has made as evidence of the company’s commitment to the cotton industry.
The Idalou research station plans to close in about a week, and the equipment and personnel will be moved to a new, state-of-the-art breeding and trait development facility built closer to Lubbock near Loop 289. It’s also near the Texas Tech University fabric lab.
Bayer also has invested in a multi-million 76,200-square-foot fuzzy seed storage facility near Ransom Canyon about 20 miles southeast of Lubbock.
In addition, the company in the coming weeks plans to open a state-of-the-art research and breeding facility near Albany, Ga., and has increased its greenhouse space in Memphis, Tenn.
A promising pipeline
Along with its traditional workhorse cotton varieties, Bayer also showed off a handful of new ones for the 2017 season as well as promising advanced experimental lines. The varietal plots were housed on the Gary Everett Farm and are part of Bayer’s Agronomic Performance Trials, formerly known as CAP — Cotton Agronomic Performance — trials.
Conducted throughout the Cotton Belt, the trials provide growers and consultants with hands-on experience about how advanced lines nearing potential release will perform across different soils, geographies, farming practices and water-management regimes. Participants provide feedback to Bayer throughout the season.
BX 1771GLTP, for example, contains TwinLink Plus. The stacked trait includes two of Bayer’s proprietary Bt genes as well as a third Bt protein — VipCot3 — for improved control of worm pests, particularly the armyworm complex, says Kenny Melton, Western region agronomic manager.
The VipCot3 increases the durability of the resistance.
“We have seen what weed resistance looks like, and we don’t want that to situation to come to the worms,” Melton says.
BX 1771GLTP also provides growers the flexibility of spraying glufosinate — marketed as Liberty herbicide by Bayer — or glyphosate over the top for weed control.
BX 1735GLT and BX 1736GLT, two experimental varieties, share a new recurrent parent, says Craig Bednarz, agronomic service rep for Lubbock south. Both lines have some resistance to Verticilium wilt as well as a gene for resistance to root-knot nematode. They also have resistance to glyphosate and glufosinate as well as two proprietary Bt genes for worm control.
In addition, the two are large-seeded varieties with good fiber quality.
“These are two lines we’re very excited about. We believe we’re getting good varieties out of these two,” he says.
FM 1911GLT, new for the 2017 season, is a FiberMax stripper variety for the High Plains of Texas. Available on a very limited basis in 2016, FM 1911GLT is a large-seeded variety that doesn’t get too growthy and has resistance to Verticilium wilt and bacterial blight.
“It’s a very good variety for our part of the world,” Bednarz says.
The company was able to take what growers liked about FM 2011GT and put those in a new variety with improved fiber quality.
In addition, the new variety has resistant to both glyphosate and glufosinate as well as two proprietary Bt genes for worm control.
Looking to the future
In the pipeline are cotton varieties that will have resistance to HPPD herbicides, says Jason Wistehuff, North America cotton seed product manager. Unlike traits that impart resistance to glufosinate and glyphosate herbicides, this new trait is a non-GMO.
“We have seen in other crops with HPPD resistance the efficacy and new mode of action can provide a substantial benefit to the grower for a long period of time,” he says.
Discussions within the company continue about when the new trait might move into commercial channels and in which varieties it might be available, Wistehuff says.