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Biological crop protection – or biologics as we call it – is an important part of the Bayer portfolio. Our vision is to integrate biological crop protection with conventional chemicals to offer growers the benefits of both.

Back in 2012 Bayer acquired the biological portfolio of AgraQuest, which shifted that vision forward, and so it was to the new home of Bayer Biologics in West Sacramento, California where I went to the first Bayer Biologics Regulatory workshop in April.

The West Sacramento site primarily focuses on discovery and development of microorganism-containing products.  Probably the most well- known product to come out of the West Sacramento site is Serenade ASO.  In common with many biologic solutions, the use of Serenade ASO in an integrated program offers grower benefits including residue management, short re-entry and pre-harvest intervals, resistance management and plant health/yield benefits. 

The workshop was held over three full days and covered many topics. Countries represented at the workshop included Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Canada, USA, Germany, France and Turkey, so it truly was a global meeting.  

It was interesting to see just how inconsistent or non-existent in some cases the regulatory pathway for biologics is in some countries. But this creates an opportunity for the regulatory community to connect with their local authorities and foster open discussions to achieve local registrations.

Day one included a general introduction to biologics and covered topics including product chemistry, human and environmental safety, microbiology, and plant microbe interactions.  It was clear that biological products, when used in integrated programmes, deliver value beyond efficacy.

The highlight of day two was the facility tour. We talked to colleagues that worked in microbiology, plant pathology and chemistry. We also got to see the lab scale and pilot plant facilities for the early phase production of potential candidates before they move into larger scale field testing.  Very impressive!

Day three saw us split into smaller groups for breakout sessions focusing on various regulatory issues.  These sessions successfully fostered an air of collaboration and knowledge exchange.  While our hosts were able to discuss the products in detail, we were able to offer insights into potential regional authority approaches.  It was very much a two way exchange.

The atmosphere was one of collaboration, optimism, focus and drive, which makes me confident of the future for biological crop protection, especially within Bayer. It was a trip well worth making – and not because it was in California!