While identifying new candidates for weed control solutions is a key focus of the activities at this site, the programs have evolved to encompass research that goes beyond herbicide development. There are greenhouses that are used to screen new compounds, but the chemists, biochemists and biologists also look at the market.
“Our thinking extends from models to markets,” Stübler says. “Yes, we have in our research team scientists that look at new molecules. But we also must have a sense of what the market wants and needs. We are in close contact with our colleagues in the field to learn from them how agriculture is changing, and how to solve problems in the future. We are extremely market driven.”
One area that has seen significant investment is the area of herbicide-resistant weeds. Not only is research in Frankfurt focused on new products, but also on how herbicide resistance develops and how producers can best use tools now available to protect their crops.
“The enormity of the problem with herbicide-resistant weeds, especially in the United States, has changed our mind-set somewhat,” explains Harry Strek, head of Profiling and Market Support. “While we still look for new chemistries, we are working to get a better understanding of how herbicide resistance develops and how producers can use current tools to manage weeds.
“We are a company that needs to make a return in order to pay for research where there is no guarantee of success for every candidate we advance,” Strek continues. “Yes, we are still in the business of selling products. But we need to increase the life span of current products on the market in order to bridge the current gap of new developments. So we are using this research to develop systems that diversify a weed management system and extend the life of what we have.”
While companies continue to work on new chemistries, the pipeline for new active ingredients remains limited. Research may develop a new active ingredient, but it may never reach a commercial introduction. “We have found several products with new modes of action, but for one reason or another they can’t be brought to market,” Strek says. “It can range from production issues to toxicity. That doesn’t deter our work, but it does show that there are many, many hurdles to overcome before a product comes to market. That is why it is so important that we also focus on ensuring what we have now remains effective.”