An innovative approach to innovative chemistry
By Top Crop Manager
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.
|Research demonstrates that Kixor provides fast-acting pre-plant burndown of weeds (left) compared to glyphosate alone (right) and the untreated check (middle).
Photo courtesy of BASF.
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. For Dr. Peter Sikkema, field crop weed management professor at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown Campus in Ridgetown, Ontario, the opportunity to be involved in the development of a new molecule right from the start meant he had a unique opportunity to help shape the crop protection product that would ultimately be available to growers.
Helping to shape the future
In 2004, Sikkema was invited to work with crop protection company BASF to provide his expertise and perspective on a new molecule that 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 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. Three Canadian and seven American researchers, including Sikkema, who would oversee the development of the molecule and assess its use as a pre-seed burndown, represented the council. 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. Sikkema participated on the corn and soybean committee and provided the Eastern Canadian grower perspective as the molecule progressed through development.
According to Sikkema, he saw his participation on the advisory council as an excellent opportunity to not only conduct new research but also be on the ground floor of bringing a new active to Canadian growers. “We did a lot of research and found that it is like any other herbicide,” he explains. “This product has its strengths and its weaknesses. It has an optimal application timing and a sub-optimal timing resulting in either reduced weed control or increased crop injury. This is the value of applied research: identifying the best fit for this herbicide and providing the best recommendations to Ontario farmers.”
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 type of 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 a year. The summer meeting included a field tour, where the team visited BASF and advisory council research trial sites and discussed their observations. The second meeting was typically a fall results meeting, 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.
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 offers excellent control of all major broadleaf weeds, including glyphosate, acetolactate synthase (ALS) and triazine-resistant biotypes; both rapid foliar burndown and rate dependent soil residual activity; compatibility with burndown and residual graminicides to provide broad-spectrum weed control; 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 products with the Kixor active are currently under review by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), and will be registered under two separate trade names: Integrity for corn, and Eragon for soybeans. Both will be recommended for use in pre-seed and chemfallow applications, as tank-mixes with glyphosate.
Integrity herbicide will offer season-long control of grasses and broadleaf weeds in corn applied either early pre-plant, pre-plant incorporated or pre-emergence. It can be used in both conventional and Roundup Ready corn, it does not require atrazine and offers excellent early-season crop safety.
Research has demonstrated that in soybeans, Eragon tank-mixed with glyphosate will provide a faster and more complete burndown than glyphosate alone, and will control many of the broadleaf weeds that glyphosate is weaker on.
A win-win for all
The resulting benefit of the advisory council was not only two effective new products for Eastern Canadian growers, Sikkema was also very impressed with how the Advisory Council process worked and what he gained from the experience. “There are a number of things that were really valuable for me, first was to get as much basic information on the characteristics of this herbicide as early as we did in the development process. The second was the opportunity to participate in a number of meetings at various locations around North America, and exchange results with both BASF personnel and other members of the advisory council. And the third was having an opportunity to work with this new molecule and see first-hand where it fits into weed management strategies for Ontario growers.”
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 Dr. Trevor Kraus, research and commercial development and technology development manager 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 products we bring to market offer growers the benefits that they need in a quicker timeframe and contribute directly to the success of Canadian agriculture.”