At first glance, it seems like a contradiction in terms – a large crop protection company partnering up with scientists and industry sectors looking for ways to increase biological and soft chemistry inputs in fruit, vegetable and arable crops.
And that’s been a fairly common reaction when Corteva has shared confirmation of its newly-inked seven year investment in the big pan-sector programme known as A Lighter Touch.
“We do often get questioned about our involvement, because on the face of it A Lighter Touch could be perceived as seeming to go against crop protection,” says New Zealand marketing manager Glen Surgenor.
“But we don’t see it like that. Our strategic direction as a company is to develop and launch solutions that supports the transition to these types of programmes, and natural products are not new to us either with over 20 years experience in research and discovery of these compounds, like Entrust Naturalyte, the organically certified naturally derived insecticide and Questar with Inatreq active, the recently launched cereal fungicide derived from a natural compound.
Finalised in April, the new partnership between Corteva and A Lighter Touch was 12 months in the making and will see the company supporting the programme with research expertise, chemistry and other resources.
Surgenor says the New Zealand Corteva team has been keen to be more closely involved since project manager Dr Stephen Ogden first approached the company.
“As soon as we saw what they were trying to achieve, it made a lot of sense for us to get on board.”
Started in April 2020, A Lighter Touch is a Government-backed programme aimed at developing new sustainable crop growing and protection methods to reduce chemical use and boost arable and horticulture production.
MPI, through SFF Futures, is contributing close to $11 million over the life of the project, with over $16 million of funding from industry.
Horticulture NZ leads the programme, and is working with Zespri, Foundation for Arable Research, Bragato Research Institute, Vegetables NZ, Citrus NZ and several other producer groups, plus Syngenta and Corteva.
Glen Surgenor says the project’s goals align with Corteva’s own direction in several important areas.
“There’s a strong focus on use of biologicals, and finding new biological solutions for the industry. That is obviously really important for producers and consumers, and it is something Corteva is investing heavily in, both globally and regionally.”
Likewise the programme’s research on resistance management strategies in a wide range of different crops dovetails with the company’s priorities on protecting new active ingredients and prolonging the lives of existing crop protection groups for as long as possible.
“Strategically, Corteva is also heavily invested in developing new, softer chemistries for the future, so that is another area where our interests align with those of A Lighter Touch, particularly in terms of how these products can be incorporated into different crop protection programmes.”
As one of the world’s leading producers of high quality food and wine, New Zealand has much to gain from the type of research being undertaken through A Lighter Touch, he says.
“That demand from consumers, for safe, ethically produced food, is not going to disappear. If anything, it’s becoming more intense. We can’t ignore that. We need to be leading some of these changes. It will be to our benefit.”
Article by Glen Surgenor, Marketing Manager NZ, Corteva Agriscience
Published in Agribusiness, Issue 147, July/August 2021