As producers continue to deal with a changing climate, they also continue to tackle the threat of pests that are adapting at a rapid rate. As mentioned in my previous column, pests are living organisms. They evolve just like humans do. Staying one step ahead of them is a challenge, but we can’t sit back and wait to see what they do.
We do our best to predict, based on past observations, how a given organism or disease will evolve over time and how we can tailor a seed treatment to compensate for that evolution.
We do this through several different methods.
Understanding pest populations better by harnessing the power of data. Bioinformatics brings together genomic, proteomic, and metabolomic information, and analyses the data using powerful computation tools. This allows us to better understand plant pests, how they attack plants and adapt via mutation, and then we use this information to predict future adaptations. Although we can never know everything about a pest or disease, we gain new insights all the time as they evolve and use this knowledge to make better seed treatments.
Harnessing microbes in the soil and getting them to work for us. For millions of years, plants and micro-organisms have coexisted in soil in a symbiosis from which both benefit. For example, microbes make available essential elements such as nitrogen and phosphorus in exchange for carbon provided by plants. Bayer researchers are now aiming to optimize beneficial bacteria in such a way that they will protect and stimulate crop growth and production better than ever before.
In the past a lot of the focus was on understanding the interaction between active ingredients and the targeted pests, how fungus growth or insect reproduction can be inhibited and the like.
This will continue since those factors are critical for effective performance of a seed treatment as a pest management tool. But going forward, it will also be crucial to understand how the treatments, be they chemical or biological, interact with the plants themselves.
We work diligently to build effective and user-friendly seed treatments that will perform under challenging conditions, but those conditions are not static. We are continually working to optimize our products so that they will work for as many customers as possible. Thankfully, with the new technology at our disposal, we can find innovative solutions to help more producers grow healthier crops and attain higher yields to feed a rising world population.