Screening for better solutions
Roland Beffa, team leader for weed resistance research, leads the efforts at Bayer CropScience on two fronts. First, his team receives samples from around the world that go through a myriad of high-tech screenings to not only determine if the weeds are resistant but, if so, exactly what type of resistance is present, and to what compounds and classes of compounds.
The data are extremely important in the battle against herbicide-resistant weeds, Beffa explains. “We can quickly determine the resistance profile in the field and use the results of our diagnostics tests to give the best recommendations,” he says. The lab in Frankfurt is expanding its capabilities and will continue to receive samples from U.S. producers in 2013.
“In about half the samples we receive, we have discovered that resistance is not present,” Beffa says. “That is important as well because we can use that information to discuss with the producer how the product was applied and how to improve its effectiveness.”
Gathering samples from around the world also gives Beffa’s team an in-depth database of weed populations with which to conduct research on weed resistance. “We are working to better understand the mechanism of metabolic resistance. This is the most dangerous for the future, because it can impact a broad number of chemical families,” Beffa says. “Even a relatively new chemical family can already be metabolized by weeds that can degrade a broad range of other compounds.” In layman’s terms: Even new chemistries may not be effective if metabolic resistance is present in a weed.
While the current laboratory diagnostics take one to three weeks (as opposed to growing the weed from seed which can take several months), Beffa is also working to develop a system that would provide in-field diagnostics to determine herbicide resistance. “This is longer term, but ultimately the best solution,” he says. “Having precise diagnostics can help producers formulate a better plan of action.
“We continue to learn more and more about herbicide resistance. And the more we understand, the better processes and treatments we can develop.”
Bringing the next class of herbicide to market is no easy task, not for any of the companies involved in research and development. Herbicide resistance is an issue that continues to garner a bigger and brighter spotlight.
“I love coming to work every morning, because I know that we are learning more every day,” Strek says. “For producers struggling with herbicide-resistant weeds, it can be difficult. But our team is talented and motivated, and we continue to work to bring new solutions to market.”
For more information, visit bayercropscience.com.