Top Crop Manager

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An innovative approach to innovative chemistry

Within the agricultural sector, research and industry often collaborate to bring new crop varieties to market. What occurs infrequently, however, are third party researchers working together with crop protection companies on the development of new active ingredients.


October 20, 2009
By Top Crop Manager

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Within the agricultural sector, research and industry often collaborate to bring new crop varieties to market. What occurs infrequently, however, are third party researchers working together with crop protection companies on the development of new active ingredients. However, for Eric Johnson, a weed biologist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s research station in Scott, Saskatchewan and Dr. Robert Blackshaw, a research scientist with AAFC’s research station in Lethbridge, Alberta, the opportunity to be involved in the development of a new molecule right from the start meant they had a unique opportunity to help shape the crop protection product that ultimately would be available to growers.

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Three days following application, research clearly demonstrates that Kixor, the active ingredient in Heat herbicide, provides fast-acting pre-seed burndown of weeds (right) compared to glyphosate alone (left).
Photo courtesy of BASF.
 
 

Helping to shape the future
In 2004, Johnson and Blackshaw were invited to work with crop protection company BASF to provide their expertise and perspective on a new molecule company researchers had discovered, a protoporphyrinogen-IX-oxidase (PPO) inhibitor, which belongs to the pyrimidinedione class of chemistry (Group 14). This particular molecule was different from others in its class of chemicals because it exhibited more mobility within the plant versus other Group 14 products. As a result, the researchers began discussing its potential for on-farm weed management and its practical benefits for growers.

In order to verify its initial research findings, the crop protection company assembled a small group of public sector specialists in weed science from Canada and the US to form an advisory council. The council was comprised of three Canadian and seven American researchers, including Johnson and Blackshaw, who would oversee the development of the molecule and assess its use as a pre-seed burndown. Within the council, there were two committees, one assessing the product’s chemfallow use patterns in cereals and the other assessing its use patterns in corn and soybeans. Johnson and Blackshaw participated on the cereal committee and provided the Western Canadian grower perspective as the molecule progressed through development.

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According to Johnson, he saw this as an excellent chance not only to conduct new research, but also to be on the ground floor of bringing a new active ingredient to Canadian growers. “Since this was a new chemistry, I felt it would be beneficial to work with the product while it was being developed,” he explains. “The Scott research farm is a pesticide minor use test site and this council provided me with the opportunity to evaluate a number of different use patterns.”

The mandate of the council was to share and exchange data and information about the molecule, and BASF would do the same. The council acted as a “board of directors” during the development phase, with each member conducting his own internal trials, analyzing results and helping to provide answers to technical questions and concerns. Council members also provided regional insight on the overall potential of the product.

Meetings were held twice per year. The spring meeting included a field tour, where the team visited the company’s and advisory council’s research trial sites and discussed their observations. The fall meeting  typically reviewed the results, where the data gathered by each researcher was presented and examined. The advisory council was encouraged to provide critical feedback on the research direction, help interpret results and provide recommendations for the future.
This hands-on approach proved beneficial for Johnson. “I now feel that I have a good understanding of the strengths and limitations of this technology. This isn’t always the case with new pesticides. In many instances, the first time we get to evaluate a new product is after the product is registered. Having a good understanding provides me with an opportunity to identify some potential new uses or technologies.”

From Petri dish to product
The Kixor active, as this new molecule is named, was submitted to the appropriate regulatory authorities for registration in January 2008 in the United States, Canada and Australia. Advisory council research and other external trials demonstrated that Kixor delivers excellent, rapid control of all major dicot weeds, including glyphosate, acetolactate synthase (ALS) and triazine-resistant biotypes. It also provides insight into  complementary activity with glyphosate, utility in multiple crop and non-crop use segments with rotational crop flexibility, and a favourable environmental, toxicological and ecotoxicological profile.

The herbicide product with the Kixor active is currently under review by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), and will be registered under the trade name Heat. It will be recommended for use in pre-seed and chemfallow applications, as a tank-mix with glyphosate. Heat will be registered for the control of major broadleaf weeds up to the 8-leaf stage, including glyphosate and Group 2 resistant broadleaf weeds.

A win for all
The resulting benefit of the advisory council was not only an effective new product for Western Canadian growers, Johnson was also very impressed with how the advisory council process worked and what he gained from the experience. “The two most valuable lessons learned for me were, first, I was able to see and be exposed first-hand to research being conducted by the company. This provided me with confidence in the data. Secondly, the council provided me with the opportunity to interact with private and public sector scientists in Canada and the US Exchanging knowledge and making contact with scientists in other countries is very important for someone in my position.”

And BASF could not be happier with the results. “For any company to bring a new product to market, it can take many years of lab, greenhouse and field research before the product gets to the grower,” explains Mark Oostlander, technology development specialist with BASF Canada. “By involving third party scientists in the research and evaluation process at the early stages of product development, we were able to capture their initial feedback, comments and research results to ensure that the product we bring to market offers growers the benefits that they need in a quicker timeframe and contribute directly to the success of Canadian agriculture.”