BASF AND Dow AgroSciences have announced an agreement that will greatly expand availability of the Clearfield Production System herbicide-tolerance trait to the seed corn industry.

The agreement grants Dow Agro-Sciences' rights to market and sub-license the trait in corn. The pact combines BASF's expertise in herbicide-tolerant crops with Dow AgroSciences' insect-protection traits and skills in developing high-yielding hybrids. Broader distribution of these enhanced corn lines will benefit farmers by increasing production options.

"We are excited to move forward in this relationship," says Doug Vawter, general manager for Advanced AgriTraits LLC (AAT), Dow AgroSciences' crop genetics marketing subsidiary. "This is a significant step in our plan to provide a broad array of new and exciting products to the global corn industry. Licensing and marketing herbicide-tolerance traits for some of the world's best herbicides will complement our advanced portfolio of insect protection traits, corn hybrid technology and value-added crop traits."

"This agreement with Dow Agro-Sciences will greatly expand the availability of Clearfield technology in corn inbreds to other seed partners," says Scott Gaddis, BASF global director, herbicide tolerant crops. "By making this technology available to a broad base of seed producers, we can provide growers with access to advanced hybrids that are best for their region. This, along with the broad-spectrum, season-long weed control of Clearfield herbicides, will help farmers optimize yields."

Dow AgroSciences already markets the trait in corn hybrids it sells through its Mycogen Seeds business unit. Now the company can produce and sub-license the technology to third-party seed companies through AAT, its traits marketing subsidiary.

AAT, founded in 1998, offers a licensing network for companies to either offer or acquire new crop technology. "The benefit for farmers is greatly increased access to high-quality seed products and technology from local seed suppliers," says Vawter.

Herbicides such as Lightning (in the United States and OnDuty in Latin America are part of the Clearfield Production System. They belong to a unique family of crop protection products developed by American Cyanamid, now a part of BASF. These herbicides act on an enzyme that is present in plants, but not in mammals, birds, fish or insects. This selectivity, combined with low use rates per acre, makes the herbicides environmentally compatible while providing outstanding weed control.

Also, competitive treatments used for other herbicide-tolerant crops provide results only on emerged weeds. Clearfield herbicides control grass and broadleaf weeds on contact, plus continue to control weeds throughout the growing season. This advantage can help farmers reduce herbicide applications.

Clearfield corn is also export-market friendly. Current corn lines, and those that will result from the agreement, are based on traditional breeding methods. The grain faces no international grain market restrictions.

The herbicide-tolerance trait may be bred into corn in combination with other traits of transgenic origin, Vawter says. For example, he notes that Dow AgroSciences is currently developing a new class of broad-spectrum insect protection that will complement the offering of Clearfield traits in seed corn.

"Farmers will benefit from a complete package of herbicide-tolerance and insect-protection traits in high-yielding corn hybrids," he adds. "These products will continue to improve farmer convenience, protect yield potential and safeguard the environment. The technology is necessary in our collective efforts to feed a growing global population using the current base of arable land."

Vawter notes that the companies' agreement covers global licensing rights, and that Dow AgroSciences' initial efforts marketing the BASF trait will focus on the United States and the Western Hemisphere.