By Chris Adams

What’s next in ag technology?

At Bayer Crop Science, looking forward is the key driver in the company’s efforts. Bayer acquired crop science giant Monsanto in 2016 and has now integrated the firm.

In a discussion with National Press Foundation fellows at Bayer’s research facility outside St. Louis – the former Monsanto operation – research and development head Bob Reiter gave an overview of the company core R&D strategy.

“It’s what we’re trying to deliver to growers around the globe,” he said.

Bayer’s R&D operation has 7,300 employees at 35 sites and 175 breeding locations. What used to be done by hand – by kids with rulers in the field – is often done now by drones.

It’s leading to products that are higher yielding and ultimately more resistant to pests.

He also talked about advances in genome editing and biotechnology.

One exciting program, he said, deals with what is called “short stature corn.” Shorter corn is less likely to fall over and less likely to be impacted by wind, while a corn stalk that snaps and falls over is a loss. Bayer is engineering a corn stalk that can grow to 8 or 10 feet down to 4 feet tall.

The technology “allows growers to get into the field with their equipment later,” he said.

Lisa Safarian, president of Crop Science North America, gave an overview of Bayer post-merger. Among its key crops and technology: corn represents 44% of its output, soybeans 25%, and crop production, cotton and other crops the rest.

As for what is driving the company, that’s simple: Global population is continuing to grow, more people are eating meat and land for agricultural uses is dwindling.

“How are we going to feed 2 billion more people?” she asked.