This year’s Nampo Harvest Day, which will take place in Bothaville, in the Free State, from May 12 to 15, will be the first stop for global healthcare, agriculture and high-tech polymer materials company Bayer’s Science for a Better Life interactive science exhibition and world tour this year.
“Bayer's theme for the exhibition gives visitors a chance to experience how the company improves the quality of life of people worldwide,” says Bayer South Africa communications head Tasniem Patel, emphasising that the exhibition also focuses on all aspects of its business, which includes animal health and agriculture.
The exhibit will feature 21 two-meter-high boxes with capital letters, each referring to a Bayer topic, from A for ‘aspirin’ and E for ‘energy-efficient mobility’ to R for ‘rice’. Each box contains images and informational text on the scientific background and social aspects of the topic.
While Bayer’s world tour included ten cities in Europe, the US and Asia in 2014, this year’s world tour will include updated content.
“Bayer will focus on showcasing a more holistic theme and approach . . . ” says Patel, adding that the company’s CropSciences and Animal Health divisions will network and interact with customers to drive awareness of Bayer’s capabilities in agriculture-related fields.
“Bayer recognises substantial opportunity in Africa, as there are massive tracts of land available for small-scale and emerging farms, especially because there has been significant investment and growth in the agriculture and agribusiness sectors of several African economies, which will continue,” says Patel, adding that the continent’s population is expected to double by 2025.
There is also significant potential for African countries to become major global food exporters, which creates the need for sustainable food production, she notes.
However, as the continent has more small-scale farmers, Bayer has adapted its approach to meet the needs of small-scale farmers with smaller, more affordable and accessible crop-protection packages and products, as their challenges and needs differ from those of large commercial farmers.
“Moreover, as these farmers do not necessarily have the skills to responsibly and effectively use the products, making the products available in the most suitable format and training the farmers to correctly use the products for the desired results or the correct harvest are key to ensuring that sustainable farming methods are implemented,” Patel points out.
As farmers aim to increase their harvest yields and ensure the sustainability of these yields, Bayer provides innovations and technologies to ensure this sustainability and to mitigate any concerns, Patel stresses.
She further highlights several innovations that the company has developed for the agriculture sector.
Bayer CropScience marketing head Dirk Uys explains that the company introduced its first biological compound – combined with traditional chemistry – as a seed treatment, which the company finds is optimising yields by reducing the damage caused by insects during planting. “The division has also introduced a polymer with this seed treatment, which we find reduces dust and improves the plantability.”
Further, Bayer has introduced Velum Prime in potatoes to control nematodes and early blight and, in combination with a traditional fungicide programme, has proven that yields increase by as much as 10 t/ha, adds Uys.
Bayer CropScience also introduced cotton seed to the South African market at the end of last year and followed it up with the introduction of the new Canola seed variety – Belinda.
“Bayer CropScience’s Canola seed variety is a good rotation crop, which fights pests and diseases while reducing herbicide resistance and, importantly, increasing yield, which is good for farming sustainably. “The cotton seed also offers great yield and good fibre content, which means better quality and more cotton for famers,” says Uys.
He points out that starting the seed business locally was Bayer’s response to a direct call from growers who wanted an alternative to available products. Uys says Bayer wanted to give them a choice, in addition to offering sustainable solutions.
Meanwhile, he notes that the biggest current challenge for farmers in South Africa is the need to reduce risk.
“This year, major risk is linked to the drought in the summer rainfall area, which is resulting in a potential shortage of summer grains such as maize, soya and sunflowers.
“That said, it will be a positive aspect to learn from farmers at Nampo, who regard this event as an opportunity to identify areas of improvement in South Africa,” he suggests.
As the sector is pursuing more innovative products that contribute positively to South African agriculture, Bayer is committed to investing in developing new and innovative products that add value to the farmer and the value chain, says Uys, concluding that, “without this innovation, an industry has the potential to fall behind”.