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Fighting Disease – Inside and Out
Disease is the silent killer of crops and can start deep inside the plant before manifesting as wilting, browning, molding, and rotting. Through a combination of scientific innovations, technology, and products, we offer farmers tailored solutions to not only spot disease early but prevent it from taking hold altogether.
Using data science and artificial intelligence to identify diseases early
Through the use of artificial intelligence known as machine learning, today we are able to discover and diagnose crop diseases in real time right from the field. The ability to identify and address diseases quickly can have a huge impact on a farmer’s time, resources, and ultimately the productivity of their crops.
The rise of digitalization and data has opened a wealth of new opportunities for farmers. Remote sensors, satellites, and drones can monitor plant health, soil conditions, temperature, nitrogen utilization and much more 24/7. Artificial intelligence (AI) tools can then analyze data at high speeds and funnel it back to farmers in the form of useful insights, helping them make critical, timely, in-field decisions.
For example, just a few years ago, growers may have only noticed and acted upon disease pressure once it was widespread in their fields and visible to the naked eye. Now, thanks to these high-tech tools, even small breakouts of disease can be detected early on, and growers can be alerted to that information in real time, allowing them to come up with a mitigation plan quickly and treat just those areas in a targeted manner, rather than spraying an entire field.
Microbials to support plant health
Microbes are microscopic organisms in the soil. In many cases they can have a symbiotic relationship with plants, helping crops thrive. In agriculture, we are developing products containing microbes that can be applied to plants or seeds to complement — or provide an alternative to — chemical crop protection products. These products are referred to as agricultural biologicals. In addition to exploring biological crop protectants. Bayer is working to create microbials that use beneficial fungi, bacteria, and other microorganisms to help plants better absorb nutrients and ward off pests and disease.
Controlling the threat of fungal pathogens
The most common crop diseases are spread by fungi that finde their way to leaf surfaces, where environmental elements like the wind and rain help spread their spores to nearby plants, posing a serious threat to a farmer’s crop. It is estimated that fungal pathogens are responsible for crop losses of up to 30% worldwide. Innovative solutions like fungicides are a critical tool for farmers to control the spread of fungi-borne diseases. Fungicides work by inhibiting the growth of the fungus or destroying it completely, thereby enabling crop plants to thrive on. At Bayer we work to provide fungicides that help farmers combat fungi and diseases and are safe for the environment and the food supply.
Plant breeding and biotechnology for disease resistance
Humans have been using plant breeding techniques to improve food and crops for thousands of years. One way to harness modern plant breeding is to develop varieties that are naturally disease resistent. By cross-breeding plants that have shown a natural resistance to certain diseases, we can create crops more likely to thrive despite the threat of plant disease.
In the 1980s, scientists began using biotechnology, a method of transferring beneficial genes conferring desirable traits like disease resistance directly plants in a faster, more efficient and precise fashion that through traditional breeding techniques. A great example of this successful approach is the disease-resistant Rainbow Papaya. Before the introduction of this variety in 1988, the Hawaiian papaya industry was being devastated by the Papaya Ringspot virus. Using biotechnology, scientists developed the Rainbow Papaya by inserting a gene that allowed the plant to resist the disease and thrive. Today, thanks to biotechnology, the world continues to enjoy this nutritious fruit from the Hawaiian Islands.
At Bayer, we use biotechnology, in combination with plant breeding, to develop crops that are resistance to plant-specific diseases, preventing diseases before they start.