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Nine Trends You’ll See in Agriculture

Admin | 04.03.2013

A growing world population that wants (and can pay) for your products. Non-traditional labor sources. And biological products that protect your crops from pests.

A growing world population that wants (and can pay) for your products. Non-traditional labor sources. And biological products that protect your crops from pests.

Those are just some of the agricultural trends you’ll see. Here’s a glance at these and other trends discussed at this week’s Bayer Crop Science Ag Issues Forum that’s being held prior to the Commodity Classic in Kissimmee, Florida.

1. There’s growing demand for what you grow. 

Long-term, the world’s growing populations bodes well for products produced by farmers. “We need to increase food production by 70% to meet demand by 2050,” says David Hollinrake, Bayer CropScience vice president for agricultural commercial operations.

Much of this growing population will have the cash to pay for this food, too. “There is growing wealth,” says Hollinrake. “As societies grow in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) what do they want to do? They want to eat like us.”

2. Ag’s labor squeeze will prompt non-traditional talent searches. 

“We are going to have to go to non-traditional universities rather than ag universities to look for talent,” says Hollinrake.

Later in the program, Rich Kottmeyer, senior executive and global agriculture & food production leader for Accenture, theorized what the agricultural labor market would look like from a 2025 perspective.

“We saw movement of urban youth to the farm to supply farm labor,” he says. “They are more racially mixed, they are younger, and they come from an environment where for generations, people were away from the farm. It took some government action, foresight of some senators, but it was also really the private sector who said, ‘Wait a minute. If we can’t get labor from our sons and daughters, where do we go but to a population that is most in need of being rescued or being helped, and that was inner city youth.”

3. Biologics will be a new phase in agricultural technology. 

“It will be the third leg of agricultural science, in addition to molecular biology and synthetic chemistry," says David Nicholson, who heads research and development for Bayer CropScience.

One example that Bayer has already launched is its Poncho Votivo seed treatment, which contains a natural bacterial strain that creates a living barrier around roots that prevents nematodes from causing damage.

Another bonus: Because biologics are naturally occurring products, their regulatory timeline is shorter than that of traditional chemistry. Regulatory approval often takes just two to three years for biologics, compared to 10 to 12 years for traditional chemistries, says Hollinrake.

4. Herbicide-resistant weeds will continue to spread. 

Hollinrake says Bayer officials often field this farmer complaint: “I can’t control weeds I used to control two years ago.”

Hollinrake notes these farmers aren’t alone. “Sixty-one million acres are infested with resistance,” says Hollinrake. “It is a trend that is here to stay.” That’s why Bayer is researching and marketing new products to help farmers deal with it, he says.

5. Traceability will increase. 

“There will come a day when a consumer will walk into a grocery store, pick out a product, scan it, and be able to know where it was grown, what products were used to grow it, and if it satisfied what they are looking for,” says Hollinrake.

6. Farmers will have a CEO mentality. 

“They will make decisions based on return on investment, where in the past, they might have made them based on lifestyle and relationship choice,” says Hollinrake.

7. Precision farming will switch from data collection to decision making.

Precision agricultural techniques like field mapping have farmers swimming in data. Hollinrake sees an opportunity to take this data and transfer it into use for decision-making. “We want to be a leader in moving precision to decision,” he says.

“We are moving into the data-centric era,” adds Nicholson. “There are huge amounts of data (being generated). People who will win are people who will be able to handle data best, and turn that information into knowledge.”

8. Crop technology will expand to enable plants to better endure abiotic stressors. 

In the past, crop scientists have done a fantastic job of developing or helping plants kill insects, weeds or fungi, says Nicholson. “What we are now looking to do is to enhance plant health by protecting plant from non-living stressors like heat or ultraviolet light,” he says.

9. You’ll continue to pay more for seed. 

It costs seed and chemical companies big bucks and time to bring products to market. Here’s a few numbers that Hollinrake tossed out:

  • Average research and development costs for a crop production product to reach the market: $256 million.
  • Time for one crop production product to reach the market: 10 years.
  • Average research and development costs for a plant biotechnology trait that reaches the market: $136 million.