MONHEIM, GERMANY — Current challenges and future opportunities in wheat production were the main topics of discussion at the Bayer CropScience Cereal Future Forum held Feb. 11-12 in Brussels, Belgium.

Approximately 230 experts and representatives from 30 cereal growing countries gathered for the conference, which set out to stimulate fresh perspectives on topics ranging from agronomic challenges such as integrated weed and pest management, the impact of drought and heat on yield, value chain requirements, regulatory challenges and opportunities for technology innovation with digital farming approaches.

The participants also shared their individual experiences and perspectives in growing wheat around the world and came to the conclusion that the global demand for wheat is rising steadily and outpacing productivity. To further increase agricultural productivity without compromising the environment, more innovation is required to ensure a sustainable intensification of wheat production, the speakers said.

Bayer CropScience is one of the company’s that has looked to embrace innovation to expand the yield frontier and exploit today’s potential. The company has set up a long-term innovation program to enhance global wheat productivity and started to build up a wheat seeds business in 2010 by engaging in collaborations with leading wheat research institutions and selected acquisitions.

“We have a 10-year plan to invest €1.5 billion in the research and development of new solutions for wheat through to 2020 — encompassing both high-yielding seeds and new crop protection solutions to advance global wheat cultivation,” said Liam Condon, chief executive officer at Bayer CropScience. “Seven wheat breeding stations across the crop’s main growing areas around the world are now operating, and the first seeds are currently being sold in Eastern Europe. Hybrid seed varieties with improved yield are expected to be ready for market after 2020 — an example for the long-term nature of our business.”

Steve Patterson, global crop manager of cereals at Bayer CropScience, said the challenge is “significant.”

“Collaboration is essential,” he said. “We have to focus on the needs of farmers, both the large-scale operations in industrialized countries but also small-scale farmers in developing countries. Agronomy can make a difference as well as technology — digital farming, new cultivation systems and machinery which enable this. In addition, we all have a role to play to communicate the needs and benefits of modern farming. And we need to explain the science behind the technology to support a predictable and science-based regulatory environment.”

Bayer CropScience established the series of dedicated Crop Future Forums to provide a networking platform on the future of key agricultural crops.

“With our Crop Future Forums we want to foster stakeholder dialogue and knowledge exchange with a focus on societal trends and innovative solutions for future challenges,” said Hartmut van Lengerich, head of cereals, rice, oilseeds and fungicide assets at Bayer CropScience. “Cereals are an important staple crop for human diets. We are committed to addressing the future demands of a growing world population by providing innovative integrated solutions to farmers worldwide. To be able to do so, we are actively seeking to engage in dialog and join forces with cereal experts all over the world. This Future Forum was already the second one dedicated to cereals, and we have been able to tie in successfully with the discussions at our first Cereal Future Forum held in 2011.”