Step Changes in Ag R&D

An active pipeline of research and development propels Syngenta—and the industry—forward.
Step Changes in Ag R&D
Eric Rawls, R&D scientist at the Syngenta Vero Beach Research Center in Florida, checks a solution mixture for suspension prior to a spray application.
In agriculture, one thing never changes: Growers want innovative solutions that will make their efforts more productive. That's because increased yield is a constant goal. At the same time, factors such as resistance, environmental conditions, pest shifts and changing regulations complicate growers' efforts in the field.

That's why Syngenta is committed to a robust pipeline of new technologies. "In 2016, we will launch 16 new products into the market, mostly from the three new active ingredients that we introduced in 2015," says Jeff Cecil, the company's head of crop protection product marketing, "and 2018 will bring further launches of new fungicides, insecticides and herbicides. Resellers and growers can be confident that we are working to develop products that will fit their needs."

Syngenta devotes enormous resources to finding game-changing improvements. The company invests $1.4 billion in research and development (R&D) globally each year—almost $4 million every day— and employs more than 5,000 scientists worldwide to deliver local solutions to customers.

"We are successfully meeting the demand for innovation with our three technology pipelines: chemistry, breeding and genetically modified traits," says Trish Malarkey, Ph.D., global head of R&D for Syngenta. "They guarantee that we will work to sustain the broadest portfolio in the industry."

This portfolio not only helps individual farmers, but it also moves the entire industry. "Syngenta R&D delivers innovation that addresses growers' needs to increase farm productivity sustainably, while continuing to meet the ever-higher expectations of regulators, crop processors and consumers," says Marian Stypa, Ph.D., head of regional product development for Syngenta in North America. "Thanks to our expertise in seeds, crop protection and seed treatment, as well as our deep understanding of plant physiology, we have the knowledge and global capabilities to solve growers' challenges through the combination of crop genetics and chemistry. Our objective is to develop and bring to the market technologies that add value to our customers."

Advancements in Crop Protection

A major reason for the success of Syngenta R&D is the sheer size and breadth of its investment, says Mike Johnson, Ph.D., the company's head of biological R&D in North America. "We invest more dollars than our competitors in the development of new products across the entire spectrum of crop-growing needs."

In 2015, those investments translated into multiple major product launches. "It's the first year ever that we launched three major new active ingredients in the same year," says Cecil.

"I don't think there's any other company represented like we are in the field. Our number of scientists and their level of training are exceptional."

Mike Johnson
One of those launches was for the active ingredient bicyclopyrone. Marketed in a premixture under the brand name Acuron®, this herbicide addresses growers' continuing struggles with weed resistance, which now affects millions of crop acres in the U.S. Acuron not only combats glyphosate-resistant weeds, but it also helps manage the development of further weed resistance, thanks to its multiple modes of action.

"Acuron is a step change in control of large-seeded broadleaf weeds like giant ragweed, and it's also providing benefit against other weeds that have become resistant to certain chemistries in the marketplace," says David Laird, head of product biology for Syngenta in North America. "It's really a new standard for residual herbicide control in the U.S."

The other two active ingredients that Syngenta launched in 2015 are in the disease-control area. Solatenol® fungicide is one of those game changers. It offers residual disease control in corn, soybean, wheat, peanuts, potatoes, and various fruit and vegetable crops. "We've launched four new products based on Solatenol technology," Cecil says. "Trivapro is our fungicide for row crops. In dozens of 2015 trials, it lasted longer and worked harder than competitive programs."

The other Solatenol-based products are Aprovia® fungicide for apples, grapes and pears; Aprovia® Top fungicide for fruiting and cucurbit vegetables; and Elatus® fungicide for peanuts and potatoes.

The second major fungicide release in 2015 was Orondis®. It contains the active ingredient oxathiapiprolin and offers a new mode of action for controlling economically devastating soil and foliar diseases, such as late blight and downy mildews, in vegetables, potatoes and tobacco. "Orondis provides excellent systemic control and can be used at very low use rates," Laird says, adding that it's been about 30 years since agriculture has seen a product with this level of oomycete activity and movement in the plant.

Ensuring Communication and Representation

A vast network of scientists in the field provides a crucial piece in the Syngenta approach to R&D. "We've got master's- and Ph.D.-level scientists in the field across the country," Johnson says. These field scientists interact with growers, retailers and other agricultural researchers to learn about local issues and help solve problems. "I don't think there's any other company represented like we are in the field," he says. "Our number of scientists and their level of training are exceptional—and they work closely with university researchers, retailers and growers in their geographies."

It's a representation channel that works two ways. "Our field scientists represent us, but they also represent the geography they cover back into the Syngenta R&D network," Johnson says. "They know their local market; they know the agricultural issues there. They represent their growers, university researchers and that geography back into Syngenta."

This information exchange drives R&D, including the significant pipeline of innovations coming soon, developed in response to specific grower demands. In total, Syngenta crop protection has some 50 or more new innovations in the U.S. pipeline alone, including 19 new active ingredients, 15 label or use expansions, and at least 10 new premixes. "That gives growers and resellers more options," Laird says. "Syngenta is a trusted name in the industry for delivering products that work and do what we say they'll do."

All this R&D activity means more solutions for growers in their ongoing search for ways to be more productive, season after season.