Valent U.S.A. prides itself on being a science-driven company. Alongside global facilities, Valent operates two research facilities in North America focused on innovation for future production challenges and pipeline research as well as current real-world production scenarios. Learn more about each facility and what it offers below.
The Mid-South Agricultural Research Center (MSARC) is located in the Mississippi Delta near Leland, Mississippi. In 1984, Valent (then Chevron) purchased 250 acres of agricultural land located near the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and Mississippi State University’s Delta Research and Extension Center. “The multi-disciplined research background of employees located at MSARC provides a strong base for new challenges,” says Matt Griffin, manager of MSARC. “Research goals as well as technology evolve yearly to address product issues and pipeline support. Staff have adapted to be responsive and nimble to accommodate these perpetual changes.”
The subtropical climate in Mississippi offers an advantage with its long growing season while the varying of soil types found at MSARC support a wide range of crops such as vegetables, rice, cotton, soybeans, corn and wheat.
“Many of the products that will be released for on-farm use in the next two to five years are being developed at both MSARC and MWARC (Midwest Agricultural Research Center),” says Griffin. “The high quality of research is driven by the team approach within and between both facilities along with the full support of research data managers and upper management.”
The five units at MSARC and their primary function include:● Field discovery - This unit encompasses traditional field research which supports herbicide, insecticide, fungicide, plant growth regulators and soil health products across all stages of the Valent U.S.A. pipeline.
● Insectary - Here, researchers breed insects and screen a variety of entomological products. MSARC often hosts visiting scientists from parent company Sumitomo in this division to learn and study with the Insectary research personnel.
● Compound Characterization Laboratory - This unit includes multiple laboratories, growth chambers, growth rooms and greenhouses where single plant research is conducted to support the field discovery team. This wide range of capability allows product testing year-round with short turnaround times.
● Seed Pathology Laboratory - The seed pathology lab specifically supports the seed treatment side of the business with a laboratory, growth rooms and greenhouse studies. The group conducts seed viability, product performance studies, maintains pathogen cultures for testing and performs studies aimed at determining how products affect farm planting equipment.
● Sample Distribution Warehouse - Here, Valent handles distribution of all product samples needed for internal and external testing, provides a depository for long term production sample storage as well as serves as the primary location for handling international shipments from Sumitomo.
The Midwest Agricultural Research Center (MWARC) is the newer of the two facilities, which covers 160 acres outside of Champaign, Illinois. MWARC conducts field research on corn, soybeans and wheat. The station’s research capabilities include precision planting and spraying, variable rate irrigation, drone technology and a greenhouse facility for year-round research.
Ron Estes, Field Market Development Specialist and manager of MWARC says that the goal of the facility is to perform research trials to support products currently in the market as well as work on early-stage pipeline molecules. He shares that resistance issues in the industry play a big part in the work done at this facility. “We are going back and looking at old chemistries again as well as developing new ones. We recognize that there is a broad spectrum of weeds, insects and diseases that we need to continually develop products for. Additionally, our facility has a significant focus on sustainability and soil health, which continues to grow each year.”
Estes says there are around 90 studies performed annually at MWARC, with a third being herbicide trials, a third fungicide trials and a third insecticide and rhizosphere trials. Staff includes a plant pathologist, nematologist, entomologist, and multiple weed scientists, along with a team of technicians and other support staff. MWARC is set up to test many types of pests and products and the success of their trials depend greatly on their ability to plan for the future. MWARC has ongoing nurseries for pathogens like grey leaf spot for corn, white mold and sudden death syndrome for soybeans, along with soil pests such as corn rootworms and soybean cyst nematode. Additionally, MWARC has a wide spectrum of weed species present, along with the ability to establish weeds with specialized equipment as needed.
Estes also says that a lot of the work being done at the facility revolves around soils, with around 58 percent of all trials dealing with soil-applied chemistries. Around 20 percent of the acres at MWARC are dedicated to a long-term soil health study, conducted in collaboration with Valent BioSciences, where the team is actively taking soil samples to measure soil health, looking at MycoApply® products as a part of crop rotations and different tillage practices.
According to Estes, the benefit of facilities like MSARC and MWARC is that they provide the freedom and flexibility of testing in-house. “We are working with molecules that are in early-stages where very small quantities often exist. We also have the ability to do research on demand as things come up in season. If we need to do any troubleshooting, we can do that right away.”
For long term benefits, Estes credits the research for moving the organization forward. “When you look at the future of this facility, we have a lot of pipeline molecules we are working on and we can see these molecules as providing real solutions for growers in the future.”