If nothing else, crops grown in the open field must be hardy. They must weather floods and draughts, disease and pests, heat waves and cold spells, and endure transportation from growers’ fields to consumers’ tables around the world. These challenges are only growing bigger as climate change makes uncertain growing conditions the new norm. Additionally, human population is booming, becoming more urban, and the demand for healthy and high-quality food is increasing. This is no small ask; maintaining and expanding productivity in the open field through strategies that are socially, environmentally, and financially sustainable is essential for global food security.
The Challenges at Hand
In the age of climate change where uncertainty is the only certainty, open field growers face many challenges. Threats to plant health by disease and pests, exacerbated by climate change, are a substantial contributor to why over 15% of food is lost during harvest or slaughter operations before it even leaves the field, amounting to 1.2 billion tons of food waste annually.;
The increasing frequency and severity of adverse weather events is taking its toll on the fresh produce industry. Rising temperatures have caused the global water cycle to veer towards the extremes: scarcity and overabundance. Since 2000, the number and duration of droughts have increased by nearly 30% while the occurrence of flood-related disasters has increased by 134%. Losses in crop production due to heatwaves and drought have tripled in the past fifty years.
The time is now for comprehensive, innovative solutions to manage risks and enable a predictable supply of nutritious food for all. Our ‘Vegetables by Bayer’ team, with our Seminis® brand, are partnering across the industry to help provide innovative solutions in seeds, crop protection, and digital tools tailored to specific open field growing conditions around the world.
‘Vegetables by Bayer’ Forges a Path Forward
Resiliency Through Innovative Varieties
Advancements in plant breeding over the past 20 years have supported global food availability to an additional 168 million people while avoiding the conversion of 21.5 million hectares of biodiverse wild land to agriculture.
One prime example of innovation is our melon OrangeCandy® variety SVMA6558 - with outstanding taste, texture and color, adapted to Spain’s growing conditions. Field data demonstrated fewer cracked fruits, better field holding capacity, clear harvest indicators and better shelf life compared to Bayer’s previous melon varieties; characteristics helping to deliver attractive, uniform produce with lower losses in the farm and in its journey to the table. Moreover, its high level of resistance to fusarium and intermediate resistance to powdery mildew can also allow for a more efficient disease management program that can help farmers to have a reliable and profitable harvest.
During three years with 12 Bayer trials in Murcia, Spain, we were able to see a up to +13% yield increase on average comparing to our own previous variety. In addition, this variety demonstrated up to a 19% reduction of losses in the field, as result of less cracking and good field holding.
Across the Atlantic in the United States, ‘Vegetables by Bayer’ is also helping to deliver top performing varieties to onion growers. Our Seminis® yellow onion variety Hornet with its early maturity, exceptional bulb quality, marketable yield potential and wide adaptability to the Rio Grande and Imperial Valley regions across the planting window, provides growers with the increased flexibility to adjust to changing environmental conditions.9
On the West Coast of the United States, Seminis® onion variety ‘Minister offers growers more a superior and dependable product. In 12 Bayer trials across California, Minister produced 10% more per acre than the previous Seminis® Caballero onion, showing the potential to help growers to produce more with less land. To illustrate how this may support growers to produce more with less resources and inputs, let’s assume, based on the average onion consumption of California residents that they would need785M lbs. of annually.10 If California grew only Minister, it would require 200 fewer acres to meet the onion demand in the state.
Further south in Mexico, Bayer field observations showed that the Seminis® tomato variety SVTE8444 outperforms leading varieties in its fruit class. It matures early, producing yields up to 49% higher than Seminis previous varietyto a better crop protection management. This variety has become the production standard for Mexican farmers due to outstanding yield which can result in more potential income for the grower.11
At Bayer, every investment in innovation supports our sustainability commitment, and advanced breeding for the open field provides no better example. Our innovative seed, crop protection, and digital solutions help support reliable harvests for open field growers around the world, which is an important part of helping achieve global food security and affordable access to healthy food, with less water used, and fewer inputs, even as the population grows. ‘Vegetables by Bayer’ is actively working to provide solutions that our customers need to produce food more sustainably and profitably, while meeting the needs of the value chain and consumers. Together, we have the power to realize our vision: Health for All, Hunger for None.
HR = High Resistance. IR = Intermediate Resistance. To find out more about disease resistance and the applicable levels of disease resistance, visit www.worldseed.org, and view the “Definition of the Terms Describing the Reaction of Plants to Pests for the Vegetable Industry” paper in the Vegetable Resources section.
The recommendations in this material are based upon field observations and feedback received from a limited number of growers and geographies. These recommendations should be considered as one reference point and should not be substituted for the professional opinion of agronomists, entomologists or other relevant experts evaluating specific conditions.
Bayer and Seminis® are registered trademarks of Bayer Group. ©2022 Bayer Group. All rights reserved.
1 US EPA. (n.d.). Climate Impacts on Agriculture and Food Supply. United States Environmental Protection Agency. https://climatechange.chicago.gov/climate-impacts/climate-impacts-agriculture-and-food-supply
3 One-sixth of food produced is lost before it leaves the farm, WWF repo. (2021, July 21). WWF. https://www.wwf.eu/?4049841/fifteen-per-cent-of-food-is-lost-before-leaving-the-farm-WWF-report#:%7E:text=Food%20loss%20is%20frequently%20used,natural%20disasters%20and%20weather%20events.
4 Open Field Cultivation. (2022). farmNXT. http://farmnxt.com/open-filed-cultivation-software/
5 United Nations Environment Programme. (2021, October 27). Climate change, water scarcity and security. UNEP. https://www.unep.org/news-and-stories/speech/climate-change-water-scarcity-and-security
6 Cross, D. T. (2021, April 2). Frequent extreme weather events are increasing crop losses in Europe. Sustainability Times. https://www.sustainability-times.com/environmental-protection/frequent-extreme-weather-events-are-increasing-crop-losses-in-europe/
7 Barker, M. (2021, May 17). Plant breeding “vital for sustainable agriculture.” Fruitnet. https://www.fruitnet.com/eurofruit/plant-breeding-vital-for-sustainable-agriculture/185239.article
8 Based on Bayer trials (years), in 12 locations in Spain comparing to the previous Seminis varieties
9 2020 Seminis short day onion trial in Donna, TX measuring harvests from 100ft area. Individual results may vary, data presented is from a single trial at a single location.
11 Data is based on Bayer CropScience field observations in Mexico during the planting season from October 2021 to May 2021; actual numbers can vary by season due to external factors.