From our Head of Research & Development Bob Reiter

The Engines of Innovation, Fueled by Science

A Farmer ist standing on a field flying a drone

The challenges to our global food supply are certainly evident and plentiful. Climate change, rising populations, degraded ecosystems. The demand for innovation in agriculture is constant and evolving as the needs of our planet evolve. Our aspirations must outpace the planet’s dire need for change.

The base equation is simple: more people plus more food production equals a fed planet. And that’s true, but there are constraints on this equation. The ‘more food production’ variable contains multitudes; something has to expand, and it’s not going to be the land available for agriculture. It’s got to be an expanded investment in technology that will produce better. 


Our global food systems are under increasing pressure to produce sustainably sourced food and renewable fuels like never before. We expect there to be 2.2 billion additional people on the planet by 2050. Billions more mouths that will need to be fed, while it’s estimated that approximately two percent of global cropland will be lost to urban expansion by the turn of the next decade.


As serious as the threats facing agriculture are, projections like the ones we're discussing count on many variables remaining constant: the same yield potential, the same spread of pest and disease pressure, or the same soil health. The work of myself, and the scientists that I share my Bayer mission with, is to change the factors in the equation so that we can positively influence the answer.

Our challenge is clear: we must develop more resilient crops capable of producing that additional yield sustainably by using inputs more effectively, supporting soil nutrition, and resisting the effects pests and unpredictable weather.

We Invest in Farmers

Crop Science R&D Pipeline by the Numbers 2024

Bayer’s R&D innovation investments are massive and industry leading. Our Crop Science division is shaping agriculture with annual R&D investments of over €2.4 billion, a commitment unmatched in the agriculture industry. Growers recognize the value delivered through our deep and diverse R&D pipeline, with a combined peak sales potential of over €32 billion across crop protection, seeds and traits, and our digital pipeline and nearly €23.3 billion in annual sales.


The Bayer R&D investment starts with top talent, with an R&D organization comprising approximately 8,300 employees across more than 60 countries. We're also collaborating with countless external partners under our Open Innovation model. Every single member of our team races diligently to help address the world's most pressing challenges through our five innovation engines:


Breeding produces seeds that produce the best food.


Biotechnology traits protect against damage from insects and allow the application of critical crop protection products.


Crop protection solutions prevent harvest-ruining damage to crops through targeted application.


Digital Tools help farmers understand, make informed decisions, and measure critical aspects of farm operations.


And nature-derived biological products are increasingly critical components of crop management systems.


But these aren’t disparate technology platforms or innovation areas. We’ve designed our pipeline so that the products we develop work not only with one another but with the digital tools and modern sustainability practices that make farming regenerative. Together, these innovation engines supply farmers with the integrated, comprehensive support they’re asking for. 

Bob Reiter
Portrait of Bob Reiter
Bob Reiter
Head of Research and Development, Crop Science

The Proof is in the Pipeline

Bayer continually replenishes its pipeline with new innovations, and over the next ten years we expect to launch 10 products with a minimum peak sales potential of over €500 million each. 


These are true blockbusters that will leverage innovation to power regenerative agriculture at scale: 

Bayer believes in short stature corn and the PRECEON® system so fully that we are taking three R&D approaches to bring it to market. 


Our breeding approach is the furthest advanced and has already begun a targeted commercial launch with very strong response from growers. Hundreds of growers representing >30,000 acres in Europe and the US participated in Groundbreakers trials in 2023, with over 80% of the trialed growers responding that they would plant PRECEON again. Through this targeted launch Bayer is co-creating with farmers and partners to shape the future of the system, focusing on getting the most out of the system through management, driving higher yields, showcasing all that the system can do. 


A unique benefit in the European silage market is the increased feed tonnage and quality of PRECEON to dairy cows that has shown an increased milk production of up to 2 liters of milk per cow per day, compared to conventional tall corn in initial trials conducted in Italy. If confirmed at a larger scale, this feature can bring direct downstream value not only to farmers, but also dairy food producers. 


With a global potential of more than 220 million acres, and a peak sales potential of over €1.5 billion, the PRECEON Smart Corn System will transform corn production. 


The PRECEON biotech approach in partnership with BASF has advanced to Phase 4 this year and is scheduled to launch in the US in 2027 with Canada expected to follow in 2029. The biotech approach will allow short corn to be combined with a wide array of germplasm to enable broad acre application in more environments. 


The PRECEON gene editing approach in partnership with Pairwise was announced earlier in 2024 here and will allow the system to fit within diverse environments while accelerating further development. 

Plenexos is a next-generation ketoenol insecticide with high plant mobility, which ensures high-efficacy against key sucking pests (aphids, whiteflies, scales, mealybugs) at low dose rates for foliar and soil uses. 


Featuring a broad crop scope, Plenexos will be suitable for application in arable and horticulture crops (soybeans, cotton, fruits and vegetables) while its favorable pollinator and beneficial toxicological profile will ensure broad flexibility and a fit within Integrated Pest Management programs. With low-residue for several uses Plenexos will be a fit on many operations launching in 2025. 

Currently in phase 3 with a PSP of over €750 million, icafolin is the first new mode of action in post emergence weed control in over 30 years, and is one of the first molecules resulting from our CropKey approach. Icafolin will be critical in securing production in situations with tough to control weeds, especially Palmer amaranth. With use in various new market segments expected, as well as potential for precision application use, icafolin is poised to make a major impact. 

By adding HPPD (Mesotrione) and 2,4-D tolerance to existing traits that provide glyphosate, glufosinate, and dicamba tolerance, Bayer’s fourth generation of soy herbicide tolerance provides 5 different tolerances to provide industry leading weed control. Upon its launch in North America, this soy offering will combine leading germplasm with even better weed control. 

Bayer’s herbicide tolerant soybean technologies will continue to give growers enhanced flexibility with more choices than ever before in their weed management portfolio. Following on Soy HT4 which offers 2,4-D and HPPD tolerances, Soy HT5 will further enhance Bayer germplasm with tolerance to PPO herbicides for a total of six options. 

With a focus on the Brazil market, Bayer’s fourth-generation soy insect trait will use multiple modes of action to further enhance the leading Intacta franchise with multiple modes of action for control against velvetbean caterpillar and soybean looper. 

For global use confirmed in cereals, corn, fruits & vegetables with upside potential in numerous other crops. Already boasting a demonstrated mode of action in a highly competitive future market, and bolstered by a favorable regulatory profile. This new fungicide will help to provide farmers worldwide with a reliable tool to ensure healthy crops and robust resistance management as well as being an excellent fit with Bayer’s fungicide portfolio, helping to strengthen our leading position. 

Bayer’s third generation of soy insect protection trait has advanced to Phase 4 and includes two new proteins for enhanced and durable protection from a broad spectrum of lepidopteran pests with a focus on Latin America an expected launch in 2028. 

The fourth generation of Bayer’s Corn Rootworm trait (CRW4) has been advanced to Phase 4 and is expected to be launched mid-decade. CRW4 features two new modes of action plus improved RNAi technology to provide excellent efficacy against high-pressure rootworm populations. 

The fifth generation of herbicide tolerance traits in corn advanced to Phase 3 for this year and will add a novel PPO tolerance to offer growers an additional weed control option on top of Bayer’s leading corn trait stack in corn.

Where Preparation Meets Opportunity

I started this piece with challenges, and I’ll end it with ideas: each of the many blockbuster ideas I’ve just described meets an aspect of the biggest challenges our global food production system will face. 


And each of those blockbuster pieces is part of a bigger whole, including the most skilled talent the agriculture industry has to offer, and the infrastructure to support the disruptive technologies that will change the world for the better.


Luck favors the prepared, as they say. As climate change breeds conditions that challenge conventional production, our global team of thousands of dedicated scientists is meeting the challenges of today and of the future with not only blockbuster products, but with unmatched investment, unparalleled talent, and unprecedented innovation. 

7 min read