Top Crop Manager

Features Inoculants Seed & Chemical
Agreement could pave way to relief for drought-stressed crops

Farmers could soon have a way to calm down their crops during times of high temperatures and mild-to-moderate drought. Syngenta and AgroFresh Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Rohm and Haas, are teaming up to market a unique foliar spray that may be available for sale in the US by 2010.


November 5, 2008
By Top Crop Manager

Topics

Active ingredient blocks signal for plant to shut down

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Advances developed through the partnership of Syngenta and AgroFresh could make scenes like this a thing of the past.


Farmers could soon have a way to calm down their crops during times of high temperatures and mild-to-moderate drought. Syngenta and AgroFresh Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Rohm and Haas, are teaming up to market a unique foliar spray that may be available for sale in the US by 2010. Plans for a Canadian launch are also in the works.

The product’s active ingredient is 1-methylcyclopropene (1-MCP). Bernd Druebbisch, brand manager with Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc., based in North Carolina, says the primary mode of action interferes with a signal from ethylene, a natural plant hormone that is produced when a plant is stressed by situations like high temperatures and drought. “And so the ethylene puts pressure on the plant and signals to the plant to slow down or shut down processes,” says Druebbisch.

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Among other things, the response causes the crop to reduce its growth and development, to abort kernels, pods or bolls, and triggers premature leaf death. But Druebbisch says 1-MCP blocks receptors in the cell walls where the plant would normally recognize the ethylene. “That means that the plant, for certain times, will think that nothing is occurring, so it will keep growing normally, and the potential of yield loss is mitigated,” explains Druebbisch. “Of course, if the plant does not have a period to recover after a moderate heat or stress event, then there is still a yield loss, but maybe less than if no product had been applied.”

Field trials on corn conducted in the US, Argentina and Chile, have shown yield increases in the range of five to 15 percent from applications under mild to moderate heat and drought stress.  Druebbisch notes that some testing is being conducted in Canada on corn, soybeans, canola and wheat. He hopes the results from extensive testing in the US will lead to expanded testing on this side of the border.

Although it was registered in the US, under the trade name Invinsa, in April of 2008, 1-MCP is not being marketed yet. “We are still trying to define its use rate and the application timing. This is a very difficult undertaking, but we hope to introduce the product as quickly as possible in the US,” says Druebbisch, adding that process to register the product in Canada has not been started.

While research is aimed at pinpointing the window of application, Druebbisch says the current thinking is to apply 1-MCP prior to the onset of crop stress and before flowering. “There’s no need, perhaps, to apply this product in the early stages of the crop cycle because you always hope that the plant will recover and there will be a rain coming,” notes Dreubbisch. “But if it’s at the change, when flowers are being set and when it’s pollinating, and you have a stress event, you’re probably going to lose more yield.”

In addition to defining the application rates and timing, the research will help the companies determine pricing. Druebbisch says the product will be marketed with the intent to add value to growers. While it is no substitute for the “million dollar rains” that can come at the right time for certain fields, Druebbisch says if it is applied correctly, the technology could help reduce the potential yield loss at the critical times of crop development. “It’s not going to replace water; it’s just going to mitigate the lack of it to a certain extent.”

Agro-Fresh and Syngenta finalized their agreement to bring the technology to the market in March of 2008. At that time the companies said the goal was to commercialize it within two years.

Since 1999, AgroFresh has used its proprietary 1-MCP technology in products that help the specialty crop and floral industries manage ethylene to deliver fruits, vegetables and flowers with just harvested freshness. With this new alliance, the technology will be delivered to the preharvest market for the major field crops.