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As communities continue to fight poverty, hunger, and malnutrition, it’s our responsibility to expand the reach and impact of Bayer’s global breeding resources. We work to improve the availability of high-performing seeds for farmers globally through partnerships aimed at knowledge-sharing as well as germplasm and data contributions. Supporting the advancement of agricultural science for the benefit of farmers, consumers, and the planet, through partnerships and contributions, is at the core of who we are as an innovation company.
The partnerships we pursue are often cross-sector and focus on supplementing the skillsets of local researchers and farmers by sharing our team’s knowledge and experiences. They prioritize the inclusion and diversity of local culture as well as gender representation and drive a positive impact by connecting unique local know-how with Bayer’s global insights. Just as we employ an open-innovation mindset for our own R&D pipeline, we believe that the solutions with the greatest impact for agriculture’s biggest challenges will be reached through collaboration that brings together diverse insights.
Our good work goes beyond partnerships through germplasm and data contributions to breeding and seed bank programs across a variety of crops and world regions. Our large global testing footprint, vast germplasm library, and extensive genetic characterization data are unmatched in the industry. This puts Bayer in a unique and fortunate position to share germplasm and corresponding data insights that will further the research of many other innovators. As a company passionate about the advancement of ag science and seeing that development make a positive impact for farmers as quickly as possible, the opportunity to enable this kind of benefits sharing is exciting for our team.
We are involved in many projects and programs dedicated to advancing agriculture around the world. Although not exhaustive, below you will find many examples of these projects and programs.
- Modern Breeding Project - We are working with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to share know-how in technology advancements with plant breeders so they can increase genetic gain in countries like Mali and Nigeria. The Modern Breeding Project leverages partnerships with CGIAR and funders like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to empower small holder farmers in Africa to be more productive and profitable.
- International Maize Improvement Consortium for Africa (IMIC-Africa) - We are a member of the IMIC-Africa which promotes the sustainable development of the African maize seed industry. This consortium is designed to strengthen maize breeding programs in Africa, and thereby improve African farmers’ access to high-quality, affordable, high-yielding and locally-adapted maize seed.
- International Rice Informatics Consortium (IRIC) - We are a member of the IRIC which aims to provide access to well organized information about rice, and to facilitate communication and collaboration for rice community, having germplasm diversity as a focal entry point.
- TELA (previously WEMA) - We donated maize lines and proprietary technology (genes like the Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt gene) to the Water Efficient Maize for Africa project (WEMA), recently renamed TELA (derived from the Latin word for protection - Tutela). Drought is a significant challenge for sub-Saharan farmers and worsening due to climate change. The goal of TELA is to improve farmer yields, quality, and profitability through improved hybrids. Bayer has been a partner along with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and significant contributor along with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in TELA for 10 years.
- Plant Breeders without Borders – We are a partner and supporter of Plant Breeders without Borders. The goal of this program is to empower “smallholder farmers to reach their farming potential, through breeding and development of neglected and underutilized species.” In addition to empowerment, Plant Breeders without Borders is undertaking capacity building and creating valuable networks in plant breeding.
- Beachell-Borlaug International Scholarships - The Beachell-Borlaug International Scholars (BBIS) Program has successful shaped the lives of graduate students focused on rice and wheat research globally over the last 10 years. Through leadership and oversight, Dr. Ed Runge at Texas A&M Agrilife Research and funding from Bayer, the program has supported 89 PhD students through their academic careers in both developed and developing/transition countries.
- Bt Cowpea - We donated proprietary technology (the Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt gene), making it available royalty-free, to develop cowpea resistance to a pod borer that can cause up to 80% yield loss. Cowpea is an important legume crop in Nigeria and other parts of West Africa, serving as a staple food and important source of protein for millions of people in the area. As a result, a commercial variety was developed by a partnership that involved the African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF), CSIRO (Australia), and Donald Danforth Plant Sciences Center.
- Virus Resistant Cassava (VIRCA) - We provide financial support for virus-resistant cassava for farmers in Africa. Cassava is a very important starch crop providing over 50% of daily calories for one-third of Africans. It is a hardy crop, growing relatively well in conditions of heat, drought, and low soil fertility prevalent in many African countries. Unfortunately, viruses can destroy up to 100% of a farmer’s crop under certain circumstances. The goal is to provide farmers with improved varieties that they can grow, harvest, multiply, and share free of charge.
- Fair Planet – We are a partner in the Fair Planet program whose mission is to provide smallholder farmers in developing countries with food security and economic opportunities. This is done by making high-quality vegetable seeds, suitable to local conditions, accessible, and affordable to local farmers as well as bridging the technology and know-how gap.
- Global Crop Diversity Trust (Crop Trust) – We are a donor for the Crop Trust. The Crop Trust does important work around the world to ensure the operations of gene banks by collecting important crop and wild plants to protect the genetic diversity and securing the world’s seed in the Svalbard Seed Vault in Norway.
- Missouri Botanical Gardens - Bayer (as Monsanto) has provided generous support to the Missouri Botanical Garden over the years including a 10 million dollar (US) grant to put their Flora of China catalog on-line. The Missouri Botanical Garden is widely recognized as one of the premier botanical gardens in the world. They are doing critically important work supporting the conservation of plant genetic resources globally.
We provide on-going in-kind support, in the form of yield trials, nursery resources, plant testing, and expertise critical to maintaining plant genetic resources in public gene banks by conducting seed increases for hundreds of accessions annually for crops including cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, maize, melon, pepper, spinach, tomato, and watermelon. For many of these crops, support has been consistently provided for more than 10 years, and overall we have participated in the U. S. Department of Agriculture Germplasm Enhancement of Maize project (USDA-GEM) for more than 25 years.
These increases are performed at the request of the Centre for Genetic Resources of the Netherlands (CGN), French National Research Institute for Agriculture Food and Environment (INRAE), the United States Department of Agriculture National Plant Germplasm System (USDA-NPGS), and USDA-GEM.
- CGN - We have provided significant financial support to five collection missions since 2012. Landraces and wild relatives of lettuce, melon, and spinach were collected from their natural habitats to ensure their conservation under ex situ (off-site) conditions. Our support has allowed CGN to organize and carry out collection missions in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Uzbekistan, and Jordan. Collected germplasm was increased and deposited in the CGN for further distribution to any interested users in any domain.
- USDA-GEM project - Bayer is an active collaborator in USDA-GEM since its inception over a quarter of a century ago (in 1994). The Germplasm Enhancement of Maize Project (GEM) is a collaborative research effort of the USDA-ARS, land grant universities, private industry, and international and non-governmental organizations to broaden the germplasm base of maize.
Every year, Bayer has contributed elite germplasm to the USDA-GEM breeding program. In 2020, we made our largest germplasm donation to-date, providing 1,990 individual seed packets that represented the incorporation of genetic diversity originated by crossing two elite Bayer inbred lines with 107 germplasm accessions across 31 races of maize.
Our donations to this invaluable program help demonstrate our commitment to advancing agricultural science outside of our own commercial pipeline. The aim is to facilitate the incorporation of broad and underutilized genetic diversity into elite maize varieties and their inclusion into modern maize breeding programs run by organizations around the world that help improve regional crops for smallholders. The value of Bayer’s contributions is evident from the fact that at least one-third of all improved lines released by USDA-GEM originated from Bayer.
- LH244 Donation to Maize breeding - We made a significant donation of a proprietary inbred maize transformation line LH244 and assembled reference genome to both the public and academic community. LH244 is expected to be in high demand over the next 30 years because of its wide adaptation its impressive track record as a top tier performing parent line in the core maturity for Eastern Corn Belt, and its exceptional utility in development of biotech maize.