Sep 9, 2022
Bayer’s Woodland Research Facility celebrates 50 years

From aggressive diseases and pest pressures to climate shifts, labor shortages and evolving consumer preferences, growers are facing more and more challenges in their work to grow nutritious and great-tasting fruits and vegetables. Innovation is critical in helping growers overcome those obstacles and ensuring consumers have access to healthy foods.

For 50 years, Bayer’s Research & Development station in Woodland, California, has been at the heart of driving purposeful progress to innovate and help fruit and vegetable growers face challenges.

Those challenges include aggressive diseases and pest pressures, climate shifts, labor shortages and evolving consumer preferences.

(See photo caption at bottom of story. Click to enlarge)

“Our environment continues to change, both literally and figuratively, and growers have

to navigate those changes quickly,” J.D. Rossouw, head of vegetables research and development at Bayer’s Crop Science Division, said in a news release. “Our Woodland Research Station is a hub for innovation to help them do that.

“There, we are helping identify new disease-resistant hybrids, cutting-edge technologies, sustainable solutions, and best management practices that are helping growers in North America and around the world,” Rossouw said in the release.

It Started with Innovation

The facility, which was started by Petoseed in 1972, initially focused on developing tomato hybrids resistant to the fungal disease Alternaria stem canker, which was threatening to decimate tomato crops in San Diego County. The new hybrid was planted by area farmers and is credited with saving the area’s tomato industry.

The Research Station Today

After mergers and acquisitions, Bayer has transformed the research facility into a cutting-edge center for innovation, helping vegetable growers in California and the rest of the United States, and around the world. It’s part of Bayer’s network of breeding and testing hubs that are strategically located, all focused on the company mission of “Health for All. Hunger for None.”

Today, the Bayer site features 90,000 square feet of lab and research space in addition to 68 greenhouses, three germplasm houses and nearly 400 acres of fields for testing. Diverse, multidisciplinary teams of plant breeders, pathologists, cell biologists, data scientists, logistics experts and market development representatives work together to identify ways to improve plant health, advance sustainability, test best practices and address on-farm challenges and consumer demands.

“Woodland brings together the industry’s best to advance agriculture,” Rossouw said in the release. “We test new technologies that help us capture real-time data about crops in the field. Our scientists research advanced genetics. We created the first Green Farm to test how the farmscape and biodiverse ecosystems can help farmers improve soil and plant health more sustainably. And our work with start-ups made us one of the first companies to test the benefits of planting cover crops in improving water management and controlling undesirable weeds.”

Highlights at the facility include:

  • First foundation seed department in industry (~1978)
  • Cell biology lab (1986)
  • Vegetable quality lab (1990)
  • Seminis brand formed, markers lab and pathology lab (1995)
  • Consumer health initiative (2005)

Numerous blockbuster varieties developed locally and sold throughout the world

The Woodland site will continue to play a pioneering role in testing and implementing novel technologies in vegetable breeding and product development. One example of that commitment was Bayer’s recent establishment of an on-site incubator where start-ups can research and test their cutting-edge technologies. That helps Bayer advance products and solutions even faster.

Purposeful Innovation – People First

Ultimately, the innovation at Woodland is focused on benefiting people, including the surrounding community. In addition to Bayer Fund grants, sponsorships and volunteer time, Bayer works with local students and community members to educate, train and inspire them to help advance agriculture.

The site hosts university students for internships and joint research projects. It also provides mentorship for local high school students, inviting them to learn about plant biology disciplines.  In 2021, the company opened Baylab Woodland, the first Baylab community in the United States.

“We are proud to be one of only 18 Baylabs in the world,” Lisa McDaniel, head of sustainability and engagement for vegetables research and development, said in the release. “We invite student groups to visit our STEM education center to learn about ag science in a hands-on environment, inspiring young people toward future careers in agriculture.”

50th Anniversary

Woodland will be celebrating its 50th anniversary with employees, growers and the community all year long. You can learn more about the Woodland Research Station – its history, the impact it has made, and the innovations it continues to drive forward – by visiting its anniversary web page here.

TOP PHOTO: Bayer’s Woodland, California, research facility has grown substantially over the years, adding greenhouses, expanding the number of fruits and vegetables under research and increasing researchers and other staff to tackle challenges faced by growers. PHOTO: Bayer

SECOND PHOTO: Field days at the Woodland, California, research station allow Bayer to inform growers and other industry stakeholders about new varieties and research. PHOTO: Bayer

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