Bayer acquires NIAB strawberry portfolio as farmers report climate income effect

22 September 2023 | Muriel Cozier

Bayer has announced a major investment in strawberries, while its survey reveals that climate change is impacting the income of farmers worldwide.

Bayer is set to acquire the strawberry breeding programme of the UK’s National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB). Bayer said that the move will allow its Crop Science Division to provide a broader range of solutions for growers in the expanding protected strawberry market.

Strawberries are the fastest-growing fruit crop, with year-round demand exceeding supply. Figures indicate some 9 million tonnes of strawberries are grown around the world each year, and they account for more than 23% of fresh fruit sales.

NIAB, located in East Malling, Kent, said that as it moves to prioritise the provision of translational research to benefit growers, consumers and the environment, the acquisition by Bayer would allow it to concentrate on its soft fruit research.

Under the terms of the transfer, the strawberry programme, which has been running for more than 40 years, will continue to operate from East Malling. The acquisition is due to be completed by January 2024.

‘As well as bringing accelerated innovation to UK growers, Bayer will also make these great tasting strawberries available to more growers and consumers around the world,’ said Mario Caccamo, CEO of NIAB.

Protected cropping allows strawberry growers to have more control over the crop’s environment, management, and pests and disease – offering benefits in fruit quality and harvest. Plants grown in protected environments also use less water than those grown in the open field and have the potential for increased shelf life.

JD Rossouw, Head of Vegetables Research & Development at Bayer’s Crop Science Division said: ‘We have built a strong foundation in precision breeding capabilities and look forward to bringing these approaches into strawberries. Using these techniques will enable us to continue to advance on the foundation set by NIAB.’

In a separate development, Farmer Voice, a survey commissioned by Bayer, has revealed that more than 70% of farmers have already seen the impacts of climate change on their farms. A similar proportion have seen an increase in pests and diseases, and on average farmers estimate that their incomes have fallen by a staggering 15.7% due to climate change in the last two years.

The findings come from independent interviews of 800 farmers in Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, India, Kenya, Ukraine, and the US.

Bayer ranks 23rd in this year’s Top 100 Chemical Companies, recently published by ICIS.

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