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Article: FMC interview - we can already demonstrate the impact of biologicals on row crops

08 June 2020

This article is taken from our Agrow platform dated 03/06/20

Sanjiv Rana talks with FMC's director of global plant health, Bénédicte Flambard, to discuss the company's strategy in the area of biologicals and the impact of Covid-19 on operations.

Question 1: Which among FMC's biological products that have already been launched do you think have the most potential for success?

Answer: FMC is focused on delivering differentiated products with performance that stands out from the competition, such as longer shelf life, high stability, low-use rates and compatibility with other chemistries. Quartzo and Presence bionematicides (both Bacillus licheniformis + B subtilis) are good examples, presenting the competitive attributes of two-year shelf life versus 4-6 months, high stability, and no requirement for special conditions for shipping or storage. Both Quartzo and Presence were launched in Brazil in 2018 and will soon be launched in the US and Canada. Ethos XB (bifenthrin + B amyloliquefaciens strain D747) insecticide/biofungicide is commercially available in North America for use in the FMC 3RIVE 3D application system. It is the first-of-its kind in-furrow solution that offers the broadest spectrum of maize seedling defence against soil pests and diseases throughout the critical growth stage when most yield potential is set.

Question 2: Which products are about to be launched or in the registration pipeline?

Answer: FMC has several products in its biologicals pipeline, including a biofungicide for foliar applications, a bioinsecticide and a biofungicide for seed/soil applications. In addition, FMC continues to expand existing offerings to more geographies. A recent example is Accudo (B licheniformis) microbial biostimulant, which is already commercialised in South Korea and recently received additional registrations in select European countries.

Question 3: What impact do you foresee of the disruption caused by Covid-19 on the growth of biologicals this year? Has FMC experienced any disruptions in product procurement and distribution?

Answer: As with the rest of the industry, we observed short-term supply and labour disruptions across the value chain in some geographies together with some delays in registration due to the Covid-19 pandemic. FMC has been successfully navigating these short-term disruptions to supply growers, with no major impacts on the business.

Question 4: After the end of the mega M&As that went on in the last 3-4 years, is there a possibility of another round of acquisition of niche biological companies? Or is FMC focusing on organic growth?

Answer: In addition to investing in organic growth of our plant health division, FMC is also actively considering strategic partnerships and targeted product line mergers and acquisitions to continue to bolster the strong growth of this in-demand technology.

Question 5: Most biopesticides have either been insecticides or fungicides or nematicides. Do you see a market for bioherbicides?

Answer: The herbicides segment is a large and attractive market, but from a biotechnology perspective, current technologies do not deliver a strong enough performance. There is work being done by start-ups to develop viable solutions.

Question 6: What time frame do you see for biologicals making an impact in row crops?

Answer: Most of FMC's biologicals are already being sold for use in row crops (e.g. sugar cane, maize and soybeans) and have been well received by growers. Biologicals are complementary to synthetic chemistries by offering alternative modes of action to manage difficult-to control pathogens like nematodes. We can already demonstrate the positive impact of biologicals on row crops in terms of efficacy. However, we expect that in the coming years, continued investments and advancement in discovery technology, formulation approach, and scaling up of biologicals, will enable a broader range of commercialisation among crop applications.

Question 7: Where does precision agriculture fall in the scheme of things so far as biologicals expansion is concerned?

Answer: FMC's current precision agriculture platforms are designed to ensure the right crop protection products are applied exactly where and when they are needed to optimise plant health throughout the growing season, as well as yield quality and quantity at harvest. FMC is also preparing to launch a new precision agriculture platform to monitor and predict pest pressures up to a week in advance with 90% confidence. These capabilities will allow for optimal use of biologicals, particularly for soil and foliar applications.

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