Categories: Crop protection, NewsPublished On: 2nd March 2022

Bayer breaking new ground in soybean technology

By 10 min read

Photo-5b-Feed-damage-African-Bollworm-9s9a0631

The Intacta™ Roundup Ready™ 2 Pro soybean trait was officially launched by Bayer Crop Science on 24 February 2022 at an event in Fourways, Johannesburg. This new soybean trait technology gives farmers around the world a chance to help ensure a more sustainable supply of food and feed.

Better known in the trade as Intacta RR2 Pro® or simply Intacta, this soybean trait is expected to become the cornerstone product in Bayer’s next-generation soybean platform in South Africa.

The Bayer General Release (cultivation) application for Intacta RR2 Pro® was approved by the South African regulatory authority on July 29, 2021. Now the commercial launch of the new trait breaks a dry spell of some 20 years since the last introduction of new soybean trait technology in South Africa. This is a big deal for local farmers who want to compete with international yield standards and remain profitable.

This new trait combination represents a significant milestone for South African farmers and showcases the next wave of innovation at Bayer in soybeans. Soybean seed containing the Intacta RR2 Pro® trait will offer three distinct benefits to growers:

  • Increased yield potential per hectare planted
  • Protection against major pests that attack soybeans like African bollworm
  • Improved tolerance to glyphosate herbicide
Comparing the yield and quality of old soybean technology (on the left) to soybeans with the new Intacta trait (on the right), shows the difference this new trait brings to the table. Yield potential increases by 20% or more on fields planted with soybeans that has the superior genetic traits of Intacta™ Roundup Ready™ 2 Pro. PHOTO CREDIT: ANTON SWANEPOEL, BAYER CROP SCIENCE

Importantly, the introduction of Intacta RR2 Pro® brings a new choice in targeted insect pest control and convenience to South African farmers and creates the opportunity to accelerate innovation in this core crop. Several South African seed companies are anticipated to launch Intacta RR2 Pro® in their portfolio in 2022.

LAUNCH EVENT SPEAKERS

Dr. Klaus Eckstein, the CEO Bayer Southern Africa and Cluster Head Crop Science Africa, gave a brief background of the soybean industry in SA and key trends in production at the black-tie event.

“Soybean production in South Africa has grown significantly since the early 1990s, from 67 700 tons in the 1993/94 production season to 1.6 million tons in 2017/18. The record average national yield of 2.32 tons per hectare in 2021 indicates what can be achieved in more ideal climatic conditions, even with older technology.”

During the past decade or so, the area planted has more than doubled, production has nearly tripled and major investments in processing facilities have boosted total crushing capacity to 2,2 million tons. However, to deliver enough soybeans to supply these processing plants and growing demand from the human food and animal feed industries, more efficient and better yielding hectares need to be planted, he said.

Eckstein highlighted the immense value in collaboration and partnerships within the industry and with key stakeholders.

“We can stand here today not only because of the hard work of Bayer’s employees, but also because of the partnership and relationship between ourselves, leading stakeholders in the industry like Grain SA, SACTA, and of course South African soybean producers.”

The realization in the industry that investment in new technology was necessary, was driven on all fronts – from companies like Bayer to organized agriculture and the farmer on the field. In 2016 this agreement culminated in what is generally known as the soybean levy or more correctly put, the end-point royalty collection system.

“This is a great story of the power of agreement and partnerships and how it can unlock value to farmers and improve the competitiveness of the South African producer.”

Eckstein emphasized Bayer’s continued investment in the development and introduction of new technology related to soybean production, including new traits and crop protection solutions.

“I want to assure farmers that the Intacta trait and the new germplasm will give them the potential to increase their yield.”

Mr. Caio Tosta, the Head of Marketing for Bayer Crop Science in Africa, shared past experiences with this technology, and how it benefited the soybean industry in Brazil. “Before Intacta was released in 2015, Brazilian farmers had an average yield of 2.9 t/ha. Five years later farmers were able to achieve a significant increase in average yield to 3.5 t/ha as a result of Intacta. Now we are here to create the same successful story in South Africa.”

Healthier plants produce a bigger and better crop. The Intacta™ Roundup Ready™ 2 Pro trait provides built-in protection against major pests that attack soybeans like African bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera), increased yield potential, and improved tolerance to glyphosate herbicide provided by Roundup Ready 2 (RR2) technology. PHOTO CREDIT: ANTON SWANEPOEL, BAYER CROP SCIENCE

The path to getting Intacta launched in South Africa as well as the key benefits of this new technology was conveyed by Mr. Leonard Oberholzer, the Market Development Lead for South Africa. He thanked all Bayer team members and industry partners for their contribution over the past seven years to make the launch of Intacta in South Africa a success. “At the time, Roundup Ready 1 soybean technology brought great innovation to the market. However, after 20 years the South African soybean industry really needed something new. And that ‘something’ is Intacta RR2 Pro® which will bring three main benefits: ‘Protect, maximize and improve’,” said Oberholzer.

Mr. Rohan Claassens, the Cereals and Industrial Crops Lead for Africa, focused on the first key benefit, ‘Protect’. “Besides the obvious yield losses through direct feeding of insects on the pods, secondary infections by opportunistic fungi and bacteria can take place. These secondary infections can significantly reduce the quality of the harvested soybeans and ultimately lead to further economic woes for the farmer. Controlling these insect pests effectively will lead to yields of higher quantity and quality”.

Mr. Jako Benadie discussed the ‘Maximise’ benefit. He placed an emphasis on the task at hand to produce more with less and how Intacta can help farmers to maximise their outputs.

Mr. Willie van der Merwe emphasized the ability to produce more with less as he discussed the ‘Improve’ benefit. “Through extensive research on a molecular level, our scientists have found a way to do what has never been done before: To precisely place the Roundup Ready 2 Pro gene in a specific region of a soybean’s DNA, which can result in a positive yield performance.”

The closing remarks for the evening were discussed by the Commercial Lead for South Africa, Mr. Kobus Meintjes. He reiterated the power of partnerships and how this dedicated team was able to make the development, registration and roll-out of Intacta RR2 Pro® possible.

Additional notes on technical details and soybean production in SA

  • Event code: MON-87701 x MON-89788
  • Trade name: Intacta™ Roundup Ready™ 2 Pro
  • Other names used: Intacta; Intacta RR2 Pro®

Summary of basic genetic modification information

How does Intacta RR2 Pro® technology offer protection?

  • The trait enables resistance in the soybean plant to lepidopteran insects by selectively damaging their midgut lining.
  1. Resistance to African Bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) is conferred through a Bt protein produced in Intacta RR2 Pro® Soybeans. The Cry1Ac Bt protein is highly efficacious against the African Bollworm
  2. The larval stage of the African Bollworm feeds on the Intacta RR2 Pro® soybeans, ingesting the Bt protein
  3. Within 72 hours the larvae stop feeding and die.
  • Intacta RR2 Pro® trait technology also holds two other key benefits that make this trait combination stand out in the market:
The African Bollworm, Helicoverpa armigera, is a lepidopteran insect pest capable of causing significant economic losses for growers if left unchecked. Besides the obvious yield losses through direct feeding on the pods, secondary infections by opportunistic fungi and bacteria can take place. On the left are soybean plants with obvious damage, while the soybeans with the Intacta trait on the right remains free from insect damage. PHOTO CREDIT: ANTON SWANEPOEL, BAYER CROP SCIENCE
  1. Increased yield potential through repositioned herbicide trait on the soybean DNA to maximise yield
  2. Improved tolerance to glyphosate herbicide provided by Intacta™ Roundup Ready™ 2 Pro Technology.

SOYBEANS IN SA AND AROUND THE WORLD

An increase in commercial production of soybeans in South Africa started in the early 1990s. The active promotion of the benefits of including soybeans into a rotational cropping system, and management ease brought by genetically modified (GM) herbicide-tolerant soybean varieties (released in 2001 in SA), meant that more and more farmers chose to plant soybeans in rotation with maize.

In 2017, soybeans surpassed sunflower as SA’s second biggest summer crop.
SA has managed to produce a soybean crop with an average yield of 2.29 t/ha (on 574 000 ha) in 2017, but subsequent seasons again saw lower yield levels, with an average yield level of only 1.78 t/ha for the three seasons up to 2019/20.

Currently the national average yield is estimated at around 2,16 to 2,2 ton/ha. Increasing yield per hectare is necessary to become competitive on an international level. The world’s leading soybean producers such as the US, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Canada and Uruguay all grow GM soybeans. Currently Brazil produces about 37%, and the USA 30%, of the world’s soybeans. In fact, in the 2016/17 production season about 75% of the global soybean production was GM.

What is African Bollworm and why is it so important to control it?

One of the main benefits of Intacta RR2 Pro® technology is the built-in protection against the African Bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera).

This lepidopteran insect pest can cause significant economic losses for growers if left unchecked. It is a polyphagous insect pest meaning it can feed on a whole host of plant species and can therefore cause significant damage in cultivated crops.

The African Bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera caterpillar) is an economically significant pest. PHOTO CREDIT: BAYER CROP SCIENCE

Besides the obvious yield losses through direct feeding on the pods, secondary infections by opportunistic fungi and bacteria can take place. These secondary infections can significantly reduce the quality of the harvested soybeans and ultimately lead to further economic loss for the farmer. Controlling these insect pests effectively will lead to yields of higher quantity and quality.

Responsible use needed for sustainable benefits

Planting the required refuge areas is very important. A refuge area is a vital tool in insectresistance management and protecting this technology for years to come. It is a portion of the farm or field which is not planted with Bt technology so that a portion of the African Bollworm population is never exposed to this technology and remain susceptible. Refuge areas should be planted according to the minimum recommendations indicated for soybean which is 20% of the total planted area.

It is important that farmers still carry out constant monitoring and use the additional measures of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to ensure the longevity and efficacy of the trait.

Increased yield potential

A number of key factors contribute to this increase in yield potential:

  • This higher yield potential is a direct result of the repositioning of the glyphosate-tolerance trait on the DNA of the soybean.
  • Protection from devastating yield losses caused by African Bollworm feeding through the introduction of the Bt gene.
  • Increased efficiency through a reduction in the number of applications of insecticides to the soybean crop.

Benefits of the repositioned herbicide trait

Increased yield potential in Intacta soybeans is gained through repositioned herbicide trait on the soybean DNA.

Intacta RR2 Pro® technology increases yield potential by allowing farmers to farm more efficiently, sustainably, and ultimately more profitably. Through extensive research on a molecular level, the Roundup Ready 2 gene was placed precisely in a region of the soybean’s NA, resulting in a positive impact in the yield performance.

Weed control

Improved tolerance to glyphosate containing herbicides provided by Round Up Ready 2 (RR2) technology is a crucial benefit in Intacta RR2 Pro® soybeans. The insertion of this gene allows farmers to control weeds consistently and effectively right from the very start. Keeping soybean fields weed-free is crucial to prevent competition from weeds which rob the soybeans of important nutrients, water and sunlight.

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