Syngenta’s key research site for crop protection and seed care products is located just outside Basel in Stein, Switzerland. More than 350 people work at the expansive campus to develop the latest crop protection, seed care, and lawn and garden technology. It’s here where the newest insecticide and fungicide molecules are formulated and tested.

“We have to start with several thousand molecules in the discovery phase to end up with one product that’s in commercial use,” says Andrew Plant, head of chemistry, Syngenta. “And this process can take more than eight years.”

While new tools have allowed researchers better ways to evaluate new products, it is still a lengthy process that includes finding the new active ingredient and also evaluating it for possible commercialization.

“We have to establish the safety profile of the product early in the process so that it can actually be registered and prove it provides a value to the grower,” Plant says.

Syngenta’s other key chemistry research sites are located in Jealott’s Hill, U.K.; Research Triangle Park, N.C.; and Goa, India. The key biotechnology research facilities are in North Carolina and Beijing, China.

The company’s fungicide portfolio, which includes popular products like Quadris and Tilt for the corn and soybean markets, is a major focus of research.

“Our fungicide market is important, and growing,” says Harald Walter, research  portfolio manager, fungicides and new technologies. “Producers are seeing improved crop yield, and they want products that help protect their high-value seeds.”

The Stein facility has been at the forefront of developing products using a class of chemistry called succinate dehydrogenase inhibitors (SDHIs). This has led to the development of isopyrazam, which controls a broad range of pathogens, including leaf spot diseases and rusts on cereals and leaf spots and powdery mildews in other crops. Launched as Bontima and Seguris in the United Kingdom in 2010 and 2011, respectively, regulatory submissions are ongoing in Europe and the rest of the world.

Also from this chemistry class is sedaxane, a broad-spectrum fungicide that is used as a seed treatment. Launched in 2011 under the brand name Vibrance, it also has been shown to enhance root health. “That is something we did not expect when developing the molecule,” Walter says. The product was recently launched in Argentina and France. Syngenta expects additional registrations over the next two years.

Stein is home to the company’s primary Seed Care Institute. Seed production personnel from around the world come to learn how to use Syngenta’s seed treatment products, including Avicta and Cruiser. The facility is also a research center, where personnel work on ways to better incorporate seed treatments.

“This has been very popular, because it gives our customer seed companies the knowledge they need to optimize and safely use our products,” says Martin Faerber, global head of commercial for the Seed Care business.