BASF halting hybrid wheat seed development in North America

FILE PHOTO: A logo is seen on the facade of the BASF plant and former Ciba production site in Schweizerhalle near Basel July 7, 2009. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo

(Reuters) - Global chemicals and crop seeds company BASF SE is halting development of hybrid wheat in North America after results of seed trials failed to reach development goals, the company told Reuters on Wednesday.

BASF will instead focus development of the new type of wheat in European markets, aiming to launch the technology there “toward the end of the decade,” the company said.

BASF said last month it would be cutting 2,600 jobs amid rising costs and weak earnings. Those job cuts included its North American hybrid wheat developers, BASF said.

Wheat breeders have been working for years to develop cross-bred wheat varieties to boost yields and make crops more resistant to drought or disease.

Tightening global grain supplies and soaring prices after Russia’s invasion of major wheat exporter Ukraine has focused further attention on the technology.

But the road to market has been slow because development is more costly and difficult, and companies saw lower potential for returns.

“The results of our North American trials have not achieved the development goals we set to meet the needs of growers in Canada and the United States,” BASF said in an emailed statement.

The company added that markets in Europe hold “the greatest opportunity to successfully bring this innovation to farmers.”

Chinese-owned seed maker Syngenta is an early leader in developing hybrid wheat, with a small number of U.S. fields due to plant it this year. BASF and rival Bayer AG also have varieties in development for launch later this decade.

Reporting by Karl Plume in Chicago; Editing by Chris Reese and Sandra Maler