Multinational Syngenta to Use New Technology to Grow Sugar Cane in Brazil

Syngenta truck Switzerland-based Syngenta announced that it is developing a new technology to dramatically improve the cost efficiency of sugar cane planting in Brazil. Syngenta's innovation, the company says, would reduce planting costs per hectare by some 15%, driven by a new approach to grow sugar cane from smaller cane segments using proprietary treatments.

The technology should be launched in 2010 under the brand name Plene and has a market potential of US$ 300 million per year by 2015. The introduction of the novel technology is pending regulatory approvals in Brazil.

Current practice for planting sugar cane is labor and equipment intensive. Rather than using the present method of planting 30-40 centimeter long cuttings, Syngenta is developing a method of producing sugarcane segments of less than four centimeters in length. These will be treated with proprietary crop protecting seed care applications to maximize early plant development.

The method would allow sugar cane growers to replant their fields more frequently, eliminating the typical yield degradation of the crop and thereby leading to a yield gain of up to 15%. It would also enable growers to use lighter planting equipment which saves on fuel costs. This planting machinery is under development in partnership with US agricultural equipment manufacturer John Deere.

"Plene will represent a breakthrough in cost efficiency for the planting of sugar cane," said John Atkin, Chief Operating Officer of Syngenta Crop Protection.

"Sugar cane is an important crop for food and bioethanol, and demand is expected to grow strongly. Plene will broaden our offer significantly and bring to our sugar cane customers an integrated seed, crop protection and technical support program with clear productivity and cost benefits."

Brazil is the market leader in sugar cane production, with some eight million hectares under cultivation, 2% of the country's arable land. Current production of sugar cane is around 500 million tons. Increased demand for sugar cane comes from its use as sugar and as a raw material in the production of biofuel. Today, Brazil produces 40% of global bioethanol.

Syngenta sales in 2007 were approximately US$ 9.2 billion.  The company employs over 21,000 people in more than 90 countries.  Syngenta is listed on the Swiss stock exchange and in New York.

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