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Studying at Cambridge

FarmRound winner, Ruth Le-Fevre, visits Bayer

last modified Apr 12, 2017 01:08 PM

Ruth Le-Fevre was a postdoc at the Sainsbury Laboratory in Cambridge and was one of the winners of the FarmRound 2016 (see here) short-talk competition last year. Ruth’s research focuses on identifying plant traits that can inform crop-breeding and develop effective pathogen protection, so winning a visit to Bayer was extremely relevant to her!  Ruth spent the day at Bayer’s Science Park with Julian Little, Alice Turnbull (Communications and Government Affairs) and Kerry Maguire (Fungicides Development Manager, who she actually knew previously from working at NIAB!).  After brief intros they each gave a presentation, Ruth talked about her current research and the others about Bayer's history, its operations, its goals for the future and in particular its focus on sustainability and environmental stewardship.  Kerry's talk was particularly interesting given Ruth’s background in plant pathology, and detailed the pipeline for fungicide development and the rigorous testing they have to do. 


After lunch they drove to the farm at Great Chishill were we met up with Alice Johnston (Applications and Stewardship Coordinator) and spent a couple of hours walking and discussing about what goes on there in terms of research and development, agricultural education, and wildlife/environment management.  


It was the the wrong time of year to see the farm in action really, but they were very keen to have more researchers from Cambridge back to see it in 2017 when things are growing (which we are planning already!).  From the very start of the day Bayer were obviously keen to illustrate the steps the company is taking to to be as transparent possible.  They say they recognise that to ensure the future success of the company they need to back up their claims of sustainability and stewardship with proof of their efforts, especially from independent sources as people regard these as more trustworthy, and are trying to be open about their operations to share information with anyone who wants to find out more.  


From Ruth’s viewpoint, if the choice of seed and pesticide providers is going to become more limited we need those companies to be doing all they can to invest in innovation and balance making profit with reducing their effect on the environment and it seems Bayer are taking steps in the right direction.