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Europeans Grow Crop Spending

Agriculture: The locus of investment in production, R&D facilities will be the U.S.

by Melody M. Bomgardner
September 13, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 37

Credit: BASF
New greenhouses are part of BASF’s expansion in North Carolina.
BASF’s new greenhouses in Research Triangle Park, NC.
Credit: BASF
New greenhouses are part of BASF’s expansion in North Carolina.

Bayer CropScience, BASF, and Syngenta continue to ratchet up spending on agricultural products including crop protection chemicals and new plant traits. Notably for these European companies, much of the investment is flowing to the U.S.

Germany’s Bayer CropScience will add $1.3 billion to its capital budget, increasing total spending to $3.2 billion between 2013 and 2016. The accelerated investment will raise the output of crop protection chemicals as well as the development of soybeans and wheat with new traits.

“Many industries today are facing overproduction,” said Bayer CropScience CEO Liam Condon at a recent press conference. “We are in a completely different situation: A growing global population, changing diets, and increasing weather volatility are affecting food supply and need to be addressed today.”

Bayer will build a plant in Mobile, Ala., to produce the herbicide glufosinate ammonium, marketed in the U.S. as Liberty. Demand for Liberty is on the upswing, thanks to the emergence of weeds resistant to glyphosate, a widely used herbicide also known as Roundup. The facility will cost about $500 million to construct and is expected to begin production in late 2015.

In North Carolina, meanwhile, the chemical giant BASF has opened a $33 million expansion of its research facilities in Research Triangle Park. The addition includes 80,000 sq ft of office, laboratory, and greenhouse facilities dedicated to plant biotechnology and insect control research. The company moved the headquarters of its plant science business from Germany to Research Triangle Park in 2012 following the rejection by European governments of genetically modified crop technology.

Syngenta, based in Switzerland, is also spending big to increase research capacity in Research Triangle Park. Having recently opened an advanced crop lab at the research hub, it now plans to spend $94 million to add 200,000 sq ft of laboratory and office space. The facility will be used for discovery and development of traits that help crops tolerate climate variability and combat stresses such as drought. Syngenta plans to begin construction later this year.



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