Blog •  2023-02-09

A career-long commitment to innovation

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innovation timeline

Travis Schoonbaert, Crop Protection Marketing Leader 

Thirteen years ago, I joined a company that, after many mergers and divestures, is now known as Corteva Agriscience™. As you can imagine, the entire agricultural industry has experienced a sea of change over my career, but one constant has always prevailed at Corteva: a commitment to innovation.

You grow. We invest. You grow. We invest. Our sole business is agriculture, so when our customers purchase a bag of seed or jug of crop protection, they know their hard-earned dollars are being re-invested towards developing the technology, products and solutions that will propel the agricultural industry forward - both today and in the future.

But, don’t just take my word for it. Here are five breakthrough crop protection advancements that Corteva (and our legacy companies) has delivered to Western Canadian farmers over the past century.

Phenoxies in the 1940s

Phenoxies were the first herbicides to be invented, changing agriculture forever. Prior to the development of phenoxy herbicides like 2,4-D and MCPA, farmers relied mostly on tillage or summer fallow, meaning gaining the ability to control weeds was revolutionary. Today, the benefits of herbicides are almost taken for granted, but imagine being a farmer in the 1940s when phenoxies arrived on the scene, delivering yield increases of 30-to-40 per cent.

Interestingly enough, phenoxies are still making an impact in Canadian farming despite being developed roughly 80 years ago – as a modernized 2,4-D choline salt formulation is the basis for the exceptional weed control provided by Enlist™ 1 herbicide. 

1970s mark a turning point for canola  

Canola/rapeseed farmers in western Canada would experience the same technological boon just a few decades later. Since 2,4-D and MCPA would kill a broadleaf crop like canola, the arrival of pre-emergent products, such as Treflan and Edge and the post-emergent herbicide Lontrel, in the 1970s marked the first-time canola farmers had effective control for tough weeds like Canada thistle. Suddenly, it was much more profitable to grow canola, and this proved to be a turning point in the crop’s history, paving the way for the development of herbicide-tolerant traits like Roundup Ready®, Liberty Link® and Clearfield®

It’s almost hard to believe only three million acres of canola were grown in the early 1980s. Today, there’s 22 million acres and it’s by far Canada’s most profitable crop. 

SU’s show up in 1980s

Sulfonylureas, or “SU’s” as most now call them, provided a significant advancement in broadleaf weed control in the 1980s, delivering unmatched control of kochia, wild buckwheat, lambs quarters, pigweed, hemp-nettle, and much more. While these herbicides proved susceptible to the rapid development of weed resistance, SU’s still remain an important tool for farmers today when used in combinations with other actives.   

Modern cereal herbicides arrive in 1990s and 2000s

The late 1990s and early 2000s saw the arrival of the modern broadleaf herbicides—fluroxypyr, florasulam and clopyralid—that cereal farmers still trust and rely on to this day. While we now know for a fact that using herbicides with multiple effective modes-of-action helps prevent and delay resistance, this was more of a “gut feel” our researchers had back then. So, they focused on using our new actives as building blocks that could be combined with other actives to expand and round up weed control.

This approach proved especially beneficial to cereal farmers in 2002. While glyphosate alone did not offer the level of broadleaf weed control necessary, combining it with florasulam instantly changed the game for Western Canadian farmers. With extended residual weed control, cereal crops could get off to a clean, fast start in the critical weed free period.

Pyroxsulam, a group 2 graminicide, was also a welcome development out West in 2008 as it helped combat the advancement of Group 1 resistant wild oats in wheat and provided farmers with another tool in the rotation with canola herbicide platforms.

Innovation for today and the future

Since beginning my career with Corteva, my colleagues and I have focused on building solutions to meet different sets of farmer needs. We take this customized approach to product development because we know innovation only matters if our advancements make a difference on Canadian farms.

One recent example we’re proud of is Arylex™ active. Prior to its development in 2015, there were close to a hundred broadleaf herbicide brands on the market, many of which offered better than 90 per cent control. However, our conversations with farmers revealed that while they had weed control options, no products addressed their many spraying challenges.

That all changed in one fell swoop as Arylex™ active brought unrivaled efficiency and flexibility to operations across western Canada, allowing farmers to deal with small or large weeds, in early or late crop staging and even in cool or dry conditions.

At Corteva, breakthroughs such as these are continuously coming down the pipeline due to a near century-long commitment to innovation. I’m both proud and thankful for being able to play a small part in the advancement of Canadian agriculture over the past 13 years and look forward to continuing to develop the new technology, products and solutions that our farmers need.