US-based FMC Corporation, one of the top global agriculture sciences companies, is set to introduce a new wheat herbicide in India that can help improve the foodgrains yield by 30 per cent. 

It has also in the pipeline a rice herbicide produced through a new chemistry and plans to launch a unique pheromone to tackle the armyworm in the maize (corn) crop, FMC India President Ravi Annavarapu told businessline in an online interaction.

“We have an exciting new wheat herbicide that we are looking to bring in.  The technology is ready.  It’s in the registration process.  It’s there with the government which is evaluating the technology.  It can increase the yield of wheat by 30 per cent. We have seen this in our trials now consistently over the last three years,” he said. 

Huge weed problem

Wheat farmers face a huge problem with the Phalaris minor weed, a grass that looks like the wheat. “It is very hard to distinguish from wheat and you cannot see the impact until the harvest when big bulbs come up in the field across the board,” Annavarapu said.  

 Ravi Annavarapu, President, FMC India

Ravi Annavarapu, President, FMC India

Phalaris Minor is hard to control in wheat and FMC, which has increased its presence in India over the last five-six years, has the technology proven globally. “So I think it’s going to be a great product for India’s wheat production which is important from a national perspective,” he said. 

Philadelphia-based FMC Corporation, which has presence in over 100 countries, has in the pipeline a rice herbicide with a new chemistry. “It is a new mode of action, which means it works in a different way compared to other chemistries in the market. This is the first new mode of action in rice chemistry in 30 years,” said the President of FMC India, which is the third-largest agri sciencies company in the country. 

Phermones via fermentation

The company is trying to bring the rice herbicide to the country soon and it will submit the produce to the government for evaluation. FMC Corporation, which wants to grow more than two times in the next five-six years in India, has developed a technology for spraying pheromones. 

“We have developed these pheromones in the lab through fermentation,” he said. These are just like natural pheromones which can be sprayed on the field. 

“We have done some trials in India and seen some fantastic results. What we have seen is very encouraging results where the pheromone disrupts mating and so there’s no reproduction happening,” Annavarapu said. 

FMC Corporation, which spends ₹4,000 crore annually on research and development, would like to bring these technologies into India as quickly as possible. These are relatively safe compared to chemistries that need toxicity evaluation, he said.  

Seeks rapid approvals

Annavarapu pitched in for “rapid” approvals for new technologies in the field of agriculture. “We are governed by the 1968 Insecticides Act and the original mandate was that a product should be evaluated in one year and a decision yes or no should be delivered,” he said. 

But the agriculture sciences has observed that it takes 2-3 years to approve a product. “You are lucky if it is done in 2 years. So one of my requests from a regulatory perspective is that can we streamline the process, especially if there are new chemistry and technologies?” he said.

This can help introduce the new technology to farmers, who are willing to pay for such products, said the President of FMC India, which tests about 60,000 new molecules every year before identifying one or two to develop.

FMC Corporation also has biological technologies but it is unable to bring them to India due to stringent guidelines. “We are unable to import any live organism into the country. And you know biologicals by definition are actually a cocktail of live organisms,” he said.  

Tackling climate change

The company has biostimulant products to tackle climate change issues. “A couple of years ago, there was excess rain before harvest. We have a biostimulant which actually helped the plants recover from lodging and stand up. Ultimately, the yield was not affected,” Annavarapu said.

Stating that his company prefers more direct seeding of rice, he said compared to transplanted rice, it consumes less water and FMC has the “right technologies in crop protection and nutrition” to complement the Government’s work to save water. 

FMC Corporation, which claims to eliminate chemistries that are dangerous for the environment, beneficial pests, humans and other animals, has recently introduced “farm intelligence” service on its Farmer App.

This predicts likey pest attacks on crops ahead of time. “We have just scaled up this year in a big way.  Last year, we did a pilot. We install traps across various geographies, across the country and these traps attract the pest ahead of time.  

Drone services

The pests are classified and farmers are informed of these being observed in neighbouring villages and they need to take steps to protect their crops, Annavarupu said.  

The Farmer App is also used to provide information on local weather, prices and help farmers in case of any problems they face. The company is mulling integrating with local weather service providers, he said. 

FMC India, which has three manufacturing sites - all in Gujarat - and 14 contract manufacturers, is also offering drone services to farmers through the Farmer App.  Farmers can schedule the services by making a payment through UPI after which the company’s representative will go to their farms and provide the services.  

FMC India, which has over 800 employees and deploys 3,500 on the ground, prefers to educate the farmers in using the right product at the right time. “We are very big into, what we call, overall stewardship whether it is product or environmental stewardship,” the FMC India President said.  

The company, which also exports its products to Brazil, Europe and other countries, offers over 60 of its products. FMC Corporation, which acquired Cheminova Agri Tech globally and DuPont’s crop protection business in India, sells its products for over 30 crops India. 

Conscious farmers

“A majority of our business comes from rice, sugarcane, soyabean, pulses, fruits and vegetables. We are looking to grow across all segments. Maize is a segment which will become more important in the future,” Annavarapu said. 

Stating that farmers are more conscious of the chemistries they are using, the FMC India President said they are now moving towards more environmentally-safe products. This has helped “a lot of green label products”. 

 “There is a hunger for newer technology (among farmers). It has helped us. Companies like ours benefit from such trends,” he said. The Delaware-based firm is looking to grow across the spectrum and all crops, Annavarupu said.