The crop protection business is incredibly competitive these days as companies strive to hold on to market share and at the same time create new profit opportunities. At the core of this work is finding solutions for farmers so they can produce more and improve profits too. Of course if everything is clicking profits go up on both sides of the ledger.
Last week I was in Durham, N.C., at the BASF Ag Media Summit with a range of colleagues and we got a load of information about what that company is up to - from a major capital campaign to expand production, to a projected boost in ag sales to more than $10 billion by 2020. The company is optimistic and remains so even as crop prices soften.
Peter Eckes explains that the company is working on three key areas: "We want to unleash the full potential of the crop, we want to deal with fungal resistance traits and we're looking at herbicide tolerance," he notes.
Those three areas offer new business opportunities for BASF and improved crop protection management opportunities for farmers. BASF is involved in crop biotechnology, but it works through partners like Monsanto rather than owning a seed business. It has cooperated to work on drought tolerance genetics and there's more in the pipeline as its researchers look at other ways to enhance the potential of the crop.
Fungal resistance is an issue, and a worry, for the industry. It's the reason many are teaming their strobilurin chemistries with other modes of action. BASF has also brought in another active ingredient - carboxymide chemistry with Xemium. But the company continues to work in this area and will release a new mode of action for fungal control in the next few years too.
Interestingly herbicide tolerance is on BASF's radar too. Of course it has a range of chemistry to bring to the table to help take out resistant weeds. And it continues to work with growers to expand their knowledge of site of action. The company will launch a new PPO compound in the next few years, but note that this isn't a new mode of action. We're still not hearing about new modes of action from crop protection companies. That means you have to focus your resistance management efforts on maximizing the tools you have.
The Functional Crop Care division, formed after BASF bought Becker Underwood last year, continues its work on a range of products. It will launch Limus a new urea enhancement product to market in 2015, and we'll tell you more about that soon. The same division markets seed treatment products including Flo Rite, which improves seed flow through the planter. The demonstration Juergen Huff, senior vice president, Functional Crop Care, gave during the event worked a little better than he planned - as you can see from the video below.
The mood overall for BASF was optimistic. Company leaders long-term trend of rising food consumption, changing middle class diet needs and other drivers offering continued strength for agriculture. This is a German company that's known for its candor in the market. They're investing in the U.S. to expand production capacity, which is a solid sign they have faith in their business plan.
It's nice to get a little good news from time to time.