THE LEADER of one of Australia's peak bodies for grain producers has welcomed the news Bayer intends to spend a whopping $8.14 billion (5 billion euros) on research to find alternatives to the herbicide glyphosate, but has warned new products must fill other criteria other than simply weed control efficacy.
Brett Hosking, chairman of Grain Growers, said it would not just be a matter of Bayer coming up with another mode of action to provide broad spectrum control of weeds.
"Glyphosate fits a specific role in our system, it is not residual, which in certain circumstances is what growers want, it allows us control weeds but to maintain soil cover in the form of stubbles which in turn has the flow-on environmental benefits of keeping erosion down and improving soil structure," Mr Hosking said.
"Before you got good grower uptake of any new product they would have to be sure of the way it fitted into their farming system, we would definitely advise Bayer in their research to be looking at farming systems as a whole, rather than simply a substitute to a particular product.
"It's good to hear Bayer talk about sustainability because that is the key thing for us."
Mr Hosking also cautioned against overly optimistic hopes the Bayer investment would automatically throw up a similar once in a generation herbicide like glyphosate.
"You have a look at the crop protection space over the last 30 years, there's been billions of dollars spent globally yet totally new modes of action for controlling weeds are few and far between.
"Again, it is great Bayer is putting this money into research, but it definitely does not assure them of success."
In Bayer's statement, made partially in response to the bad publicity the company has endured in regards to glyphosate, the company has said it was looking to cut the ecological footprint of its business and scale down crop protection volumes.
It also said it would look to further invest in precision spray application technologies to allow farmers to put out less pesticide.
Although the company maintained glyphosate would continue to play an important role both in agriculture overall and in its own business portfolio, it said it was making the research investment into alternatives to offer growers more choice.
Bayer said the research and development (R&D) investment will go towards improving the understanding of resistance mechanisms, discovering and developing new modes of actions, further developing tailored Integrated Weed Management solutions and developing more precise recommendations through digital farming tools.
In addition it said partnerships with weed scientists around the world will be enhanced to help develop customised solutions for farmers at a local level.