Crop protection's big spend

13 Oct, 2015 01:00 AM
There's still quite a lot of remaining potential to further maximise crop productivity

IN just 15 years global spending on crop protection chemical products has almost doubled in value to be worth more than $86 billion a year.

While that's a whopping amount of money, the big spending is for good reason.

In the cotton sector investing in crop protection products adds about 53 per cent to the crop's eventual yield capacity, while for rice it adds about 40pc to the global crop's potential.

Without the benefit of farm chemicals tackling pests, diseases and weeds the native yield of those two crops would produce just 18pc and 23pc of their respective estimated long-term potential yields, according to crop protection specialist, Syngenta.

Wheat has a significantly stronger native yield capacity (50pc), but crop protection still provides a considerable 22pc lift to enable current global wheat tonnages to be harvested.

Soybean and maize production owe about 35pc of their yield potential to current crop protection technology.

Although some of the biggest advances in crop productivity are being made in developing countries, Swiss agronomist and global head of seedcare growth management at Syngenta, Kasper Mueller, said there was still "quite a lot of remaining potential to further maximise crop productivity" worldwide by using better and more efficient crop protection products.

In the potato industry, for example, up to 40pc of production potential was still untapped, and the figure was similar for rice, while wheat, cotton and maize have 28 to 31pc of further yield potential to capture.

Among the new "blockbuster" products emerging from Syngenta's research and development armoury is the seed treatment Vibrance, based on a molecule developed specifically for broad spectrum disease control to promote healthier roots and less plant stress for higher crop yields.

Also making an early impact is the soil bacteria-based seed treatment Clariva, developed to target soil-borne nematodes impacting on young cereal and soybean plants.

Vibrance, already in released Australia, was expected to see global demand peak in about five years with annual sales of $500 million, while Clariva is expected to hit peak demand by 2018.

A new rust control active ingredient, Solatenol (sold as Elatus) used in soybeans, but due for release to vegetable croppers from this year and the cereal market from 2017, is tipped to be worth $1b in annual sales by 2020.

Improved yields from crop protection won't only depend on new chemical products.

Strategic collaboration between those developing new-age chemicals and machinery manufacturers and spray component makers was also critical said Jealott's Hill research centre outreach manager Jim Morton in the UK.

He said Syngenta's product support teams were constantly researching how to boost the efficacy of spray technology, including current work on micro droplet applications and selective spraying.

At a global level the company worked with machinery giant Agco's Massey Ferguson division with a strategic focus on improving crop protection efficiency.

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall

is the national agribusiness writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media


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