Seventy percent of all biotechnology traits used in agriculture have come from Bayer CropScience, according to John Wichtrich, president of bioscience for Bayer CropScience.

However, Bayer has not captured the value of that technology because it has not been in the seed business — until now. Bayer started in the cotton seed business with FiberMax cottons and has been capturing an increasingly bigger share of the cotton seem market every since. Bayer CropScience also markets canola and rice varieties and is working to expand into corn and soybeans.

Wichtrich, who began his career as a field rep in central California and the Salinas Valley, told cotton consultants at a Bayer sponsored conference that FiberMax varieties accounted for almost 11 percent of the cottonseed market last season and expects to substantially increase that this season.

FiberMax upland cottons have been gaining acceptance because of their super fiber quality, he said. Textile mills are asking for it by name.

“We are absolutely committed to cotton,” he told consultants at the conference.

A cotton biotechnology new era is coming to FiberMax cottons as well with perhaps five new FiberMax Liberty Link cottons this season. Bayer has been marketing FiberMax Roundup Ready and Bt cottons as well. Bayer license its BXN technology to seed companies for development of cottons resistant to Buctril

Arizona and east

However, these Liberty Link cottons will be for Arizona and other parts east of the cotton belt.

So far there is no FiberMax Acala for the San Joaquin Valley. However, Wichtrich said Bayer CropScience is developing varieties with Acala quality for introduction into San Joaquin Valley Cotton Board trials.

FiberMax cottons have been grown in the San Joaquin Valley for the past four years for seed increase, however, in partnership with California Planting Cottonseed Distributors (CPCSD) of Shafter, Calif.

While there may not be many acres planted to FiberMax cottons in the near future, the herbicide Liberty will be registered for use in California for use in non-tolerant California cotton next season using hooded or shielded sprayers until layby, according to Mac Learned, Bayer CropScience technical service representative.

Liberty herbicide is a non-selective gluyfosinate ammonia herbicide that controls 39 broadleaf and 22 grasses and suppresses 25 others.

It can be used from cotyledon to 70 days before harvest.

Learned expects Liberty to be used where there are weed species shifts from herbicide resistant cotton. He said it offers excellent control on morningglory and pigweed.

Liberty and Rely, a herbicide registered on ornamentals, contain the same active ingredient.

Wichtrich said biotechnology advancements are moving from agronomic into valued added traits for farmers. These include improving the food value of crops; development of industrial products from plants; enhancing nutritional and taste values as well as more drought tolerance.

“We have the ability to modify genetics to meet the needs of the marketplace,” he added.

While biotechnology continues to be a controversial subject, Wichtrich said the Bush administration is committed to its advancement, quoting the White House of biotechnology as stating that biotech will feed the poor nations of the world and will become more important in the future than building bigger missiles.

e-mail: hcline@primediabusiness.com