Developing genetically advanced oilseed rape and wheat varieties which complement crop protection chemicals will become more important for tackling modern agronomic problems.

Crop genetics will play an increasingly important role in dealing with these challenges, Sarah Middleton, BASF’s seed and traits marketing manager, said at this week's CropTec event in Peterborough. She said arable farmers faced a growing number of challenges – climate change, disease, and dwindling chemicals, while trying to feed a swelling global population – and new varieties would play an important role in combatting that.

She said: “Even over the last five years, we’ve had two autumns that have been very dry – this year’s hot and dry summer has only added to these unseasonal challenges. So, we’ve been asking – ‘do we need to be breeding more drought tolerant varieties?’,” said Ms Middleton.

With it becoming increasingly difficult and costly to register new chemicals, it would appear that big agri-businesses are taking a more holistic approach. This means balancing investment between genetic research for new seed varieties and traits, developing digital tools, and new active ingredients is key, explained Ms Middleton. Farmers will need to consider how these can all be integrated across their farms.

Through BASF’s recent acquisition of Bayer businesses and assets, the company added seeds to its business for the first time including more than 200 regional seed production and breeding facilities. BASF's significant investment in technology and innovation had helped growers mitigate risk with a combination of chemistry and plant breeding, she added.

“One example is Clearfield oilseed rape, which is resistant to BASF herbicides and was developed as a complete solution to weed control in oilseed rape,” said Ms Middleton. “It was introduced to the UK in 2014 and has improved yield and quality so much, that it already accounts for more than 10% of the market”.

New innovations that growers might expect include a new patented pod shatter reduction trait, which is expected to be launched in the UK within the next three to five years. Already launched within InVigor hybrids in the US and Canada, 'it has totally revolutionised how OSR is grown in the US,' pointed out Ms Middleton.

“Their weather can be extreme – with intense hailstorms or even heavy snow falling at harvest time – and this has helped to add an insurance against that. It gives a much higher level of pod shatter reduction than we see in today’s best UK hybrids.”

Also, in development are clubroot tolerant hybrids, and Clearfield tolerant winter and spring OSR hybrids.