Lockdown sacrifices pay off – COVID 19 cases flatten

Melody Mendoza Aguiba

   A tool called “Nowcasting” assures us that our sacrifices in ECQ (enhanced community quarantine)—popular as the lockdown—has already flattened the curve  for death cases and also infection cases of COVID 19.

   According to Epimetrics President John Q. Wong, without the ECQ, the number of Covid 19 cases would have risen dramatically particularly in Luzon.

The curve for COVID 19 cases could have risen steeply had it not been for the ECQ.

   The curve for the death rate has already flattened.  At the start of the outbreak, number of  cases was doubling from 10 cases to 20 cases per day. 

   With the ECQ, doubling rate is now slowing down to say every 7 days, the webinar led by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) indicated. The nowcasting is a project under

   Now death speed rate has remarkably reduced –already considered flat.

   Fortunately, what contributes to an even flatter curve of COVID 19 cases is the strengthening capacity of the Philippines’ health care system, according to Wong.

   Yet, based on data, there is still catching up to do to ensure that NCR (National Capital Region) beefs up capacity health care capacity as it is still in the danger zone. This is based on number of mechanical ventilators, ICU (intensive care unit), and isolation beds.

Luzon COVID 19 cases put it at danger zone with more than 75% use of isolation beds

   Considered danger zone is the use of 70 percent or more of number of isolation beds, ICU, and mechanical ventilators.

   In the case of Luzon, it is in danger zone with the use of isolation beds hitting more than 75%.

   Other regions in the country are in the safe zone (30 % or less utilization of ventilators, ICU, isolation beds) —Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao), and Zamboanga provinces.

   In the warning zone (30% to 70% health facilities use) are Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley provinces, Cordillera Administrative Region, and Region 3 (Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bataan).

   Nowcasting uses actual data to determine actual number of cases and deaths in the past and predict what may happen based on these data.  The “now” indicates its being “actual” rather than based on assumptions (which is what is used in forecasting).   

Nowcasting is a project under
the Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler or FASSSTER, a web-based disease surveillance platform that uses deterministic compartmental modeling. FASSSTER is developed by Ateneo Center for Computing Competency and Research (ACCCRe) of Ateneo de Manila University in collaboration with the University of the Philippines Manila – National Telehealth Center (UP-NTHC) and the Department of Health-Epidemiology Bureau  and funded by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD).

Agri digitalization, e-agriculture, e-Kadiwa pushed as COVID-19 threatens food security, drags down farmers’ income

April 29, 2020

A new approach on digitalization, e-Agriculture and e-Kadiwa is being pushed by government and agriculture institutions as the global COVID-19 lockdown has threatened food security, dragging down farmers’ income.

   The Department of Agriculture (DA) will partner with Grab and other enterprises with online-driven platform in doing business as part of speeding up movement of food and agricultural products from provinces to consumers. 

   DA Secretary William D. Dar said this Tuesday in a webinar hosted by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

   The three types of Kadiwa will all be technology-steered as delivery of goods is now available to consumers online through Grab, among others, and will just be expanded via “Kadiwa Express,” Dar said.

   The Kadiwa Express will use cloud and other information systems in tracking goods—possibly including RFID  (radio frequency identification)  that can monitor where goods are located while in transit or where the blockade in their transport happens.

   The “Kadiwa on Wheels” may similarly be able to track where the goods are needed and may become venues for consumers to buy food direct from farm producers.

   The “e Kadiwa” may enable consumers to order agricultural goods at their fingertips (cellphones and portable devices).

   Such digitalization will make food not only more available but affordable.

   The lockdown due to COVID-19 restricted delivery of food and agricultural goods, sending much volume to waste.  Worse, consumers suffer from higher prices due to supply logistics bottlenecks.

   “Because of COVID-19, food affordability, not only availability, becomes critical.  The threat (food affordability) is as real as hunger itself.  If the supply chain is disrupted, food produced in rural areas just go to waste,” said Dar.

   “Price stability, price affordability, is key to grow the economy.  We need to promote  digitalization of agriculture even in marketing.”

   SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio said during the SEARCA webinar that despite the odds due to the global pandemic, the COVID-19 lockdown has opened opportunities for urban agriculture. 

   It is further opening up the agriculture environment to the envisioned Agriculture 4.0 which SEARCA plans to pursue under the11th Five Year Plan (FYP).

   Agriculture 4.0 is  a concept of the future of agriculture focusing on the use of big data, Internet of Things (IoT), precision farming, and disruptive agriculture for increased business efficiency (Proagrica). 

   It is unfortunate that COVID-19 has not only raised food price but also threatened nutritional security for Filipino consumers, said Gregorio.

  This becomes a critical concern as the Philippines was recorded to already have serious undernourishment level – at around 15% of population as of 2017, placing third after Cambodia (21%) and Laos (20%).

   Nevertheless, the global health crisis brings about  a change in perspective of consumers.  They have now become interested in urban agriculture—even producing their own food from their backyards—no matter how small.

   “Now everyone is interested in agriculture.  Consumers now appreciate the (connection between) the quality of food on their table and agriculture,” Gregorio said.

   The “new normal” where people are encouraged to “work from home” has prompted SEARCA to exercise its strength in conducting forums—even involving a large audience—via digital means.

   This in order to harness and distribute learning and knowledge in agriculture where SEARCA has expertise to benefit a greater number, not only farmers but also consumers and the economy.

   SEARCA, along with its partners, facilitates the distribution of high-quality seeds to not only provincial but city dwellers interested in urban farming. 

   SEARCA will beef up the supply of seeds of the DA and its attached agency Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).

   The quality of seeds, Gregorio said, is the foundation of good soil cultivation and farming.

   BPI Assistant Director Gerald Glenn F. Panganiban said that since the COVID-19 lockdown started in mid-March, BPI has been flooded with calls from people requesting seeds and inquiring on urban farming.

   “We have never received more calls at BPI than what we receive now daily,” said Panganiban who also confesses to receiving a huge volume of email from interested urban farmers.

   Garry Hidalgo, Farmers’ Factory general manager, said in the same SEARCA webinar that no matter how small residences are, city dwellers are likely to find a space for urban farming. 

   He is in this webinar series to give tips on urban farming—including the use of portable or used containers as pot materials. Containers may be positioned anywhere in the house or even hung in windows and walls. 

   Dar said government eyes 10 to 15 percent of the area of Metro Manila for urban farming—beefing up  food security level in the National Capital Region.

   DA has started distributing seeds to the cities through local government units (LGU).  It has so far partnered with the LGUs of Quezon City and Manila on this project.

   DA is adopting new strategies for raising the country’s food security level which include the following plans:

1.       Lending via the Sure Aid program not only to individual farmers but to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) at P10 million per SME payable in 5 years at 0 interest.

2.      Promotion of Small Brother Big Brother program that raises farmers’ cooperatives’ participation in value adding and export of agricultural goods. This is by tying them up with bigger companies that can enter contract growing agreements with cooperatives.  Economies of scale will drive private sector to invest more in agriculture.

3.      Training of young farm entrepreneurs and young farm technicians who will monitor and implement agricultural projects (teaching farmers proper fertilization).  DA will provide grant and startup fund for agri-entrepreneurship.

4.      Development of infrastructure—roads food terminals, irrigation, rain water harvesters.

5.      Supporting a “whole of nation” approach to making sure farmers in farflung rural areas have access to internet and technology through partnerships with the Department of Information and Communications Technology  (DICT).  Melody Mendoza Aguiba

Food security solution through “urban agriculture” seen as a “new normal” in a digital brainstorming webinar of SEARCA

April 27, 2020      

Agriculture experts are stirring interest in urban agriculture as a proposed “new normal” as an alternative food security solution in urban areas and will be the maiden subject at SEARCA’s digital brainstorming webinar.

   To be held on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 at 10am via Zoom, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) envisions to widen citizens’ participation in solving an impending food security problem in urban areas.

    The inaugural run of SEARCA’s SOLVE  (SEARCA Online Learning and Virtual Engagement) tackles food security amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
   As many parts of the world remain in lockdown due to COVID 19,  SEARCA brings discussions direct to its stakeholders and the general public via Zoom:  https://bit.ly/searcasolve or FB http://fb.com/seameosearca/

  “SOLVE IS SEARCA’s own way of channeling proven and tested solutions to a number of  problems in agriculture sector and farm operations,” said SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio

   “Solutions to these problems actually abound so we are offering SEARCA as a gateway for these information to be made more accessible to farmers, farming families, and farmer organizations.”

   Dr. William T. Dar, Agriculture secretary, will elaborate on the “Plant, Plant, Plant” program as an extensive food problem solution even in farflung rural areas. .

   To provide concrete examples of what can be done at the farm level, Garry A. Hidalgo, general manager of Farmers’ Factory, will share specific urban agriculture approaches like containerized and modular farming strategies.

   The “new normal” brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has firmed up SEARCA’s resolve to embark on new modalities and use technology-mediated platforms of interactions to effectively deliver valuable services to its stakeholders– farmers and the public.

   Gregorio himself will give a talk on  “Rethinking food security, Sowing seeds of curiosity: What, Where and How for the Philippines and Southeast Asia.”

   SOLVE will highlight concrete actions in the production, processing, marketing, retail, consumption of agricultural goods.

   “SEARCA will use its SOLVE webinar series as a venue to expound on the importance of transformational change to systemically revitalize agricultural systems and strengthen food systems,” said Gregorio. Melody Mendoza Aguiba

Personal Protective Equipment, isolation gowns, support for new facilities extended to COVID 19 “war zone” hospital Lung Center

April 21, 2020

A reinforcement in the supply of isolation gowns, personal protective equipment (PPE), and financial support to the new function as COVID 19 “war zone” at the Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP) has been extended by Bayer Philippines.

   With the rising of cases in the current pandemic, LCP had to expand its ICU (intensive care unit) complex to accommodate a lot more patients suffering from severe and critically ill COVID-19.

   Designated by the Department of Health as COVID-19 Referral Center for Severe and Critical Cases, the Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP) functions as a tertiary referral center in the country specialized in chest and lung diseases.

   It has the necessary equipment capable of providing advanced respiratory support to patients with complicated respiratory conditions.

   Dr. Norberto A. Francisco, LCP chief of Clinical Trials and Research and spokesperson for COVID-19 Incident Command System, said that the hospital has had a similar preparation in the past for isolation ICUs (intensive care unit)  in a unit detached from the main building during the eras of SARS (Severe Acquired Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) -COV, albeit in a much smaller scale.

   For COVID-19, LCP started preparations as early as mid January, two months before the Metro Manila-wide community quarantine was imposed on March 12.

   At that time, the center was already managing PUI (persons under investigation) cases and had isolated these patients from the main building to avoid infecting non COVID-19 patients, Dr. Francisco recalls.

   Right now, cash and PPE donations have been pouring in from individuals, companies, and the government.

   “We sincerely thank the people at Bayer for their kind hearts to help us and our fellow health care workers here at the Lung Center of the Philippines while we care for our patients,” Dr. Francisco gratefully said.

   LCP has converted their new open-air outpatient building into a triage or receiving area for COVID-19 related patients.

   They have also designated “red zone” areas dedicated to suspect or confirmed COVID-19 patients including wards, isolation rooms, ICUs, hallways, elevators and specific routes for transport, for the safety and protection of all.

   Four out of six of their regular wards were dedicated to COVID-19 isolation rooms and one whole wing was converted into an all-ICU isolation rooms to augment their two existing ICU units already dedicated to COVID-19 cases, Dr. Francisco B added.

   The LCP is even planning to set up more facilities which includes putting up tents in their parking lot that will serve as a field hospital capable of caring for as much as 100 patients hooked on a ventilator.

   The People in the War Zone

   Dr. Francisco likens the pandemic at LCP as a war zone where they constantly deal with numerous challenges in front of them while ensuring everyone’s safety, security and protection.

   With a total employee workforce of more than 600, there are only less than 200 active health workers who are provided with housing within the hospital or in nearby hotels.

   Many prefer not to go home because of fear of transmitting the SARS-CoV 2 virus to their loved ones, or transportation issues brought about by the lockdown.

   On top of this, there are around 25 active consultants and 20 fellows managing the patients.    

   Although each patient is given the attention and care that they need, much of their added work during this COVID-19 Incident Command System is on operations, logistics, planning, safety & security, to ensure the hospital can put up with the challenges imposed by this health crisis.

   For the health care workers, their typical 8-hour shift was increased to 12 hours due to limited workforce.

   Describing how they are handling the tasks at hand, Dr. Francisco said their multi-tasking work is about 5 times more than what they used to do before this health crisis.

Lung Center of the Philippines now a COVID 19 “war zone”

   PPE Support Still Needed

   A complete set of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) includes a mask, goggles, face shield, isolation gown, cover all, gloves, and shoe cover.

   This is used by the doctors, nurses, radiology technicians, physical therapists, nursing aides or anyone having contact with the COVID-19 cases or those working in the danger zones.

   While some of the PPE component items can be reused, on average, they consume around 600 isolation gowns per day.

   During the crisis, there was a time when LCP was faced with a severe shortage of PPEs that could only last for a few days.

   The doctors didn’t have a choice but to get from their own pockets so that they could immediately purchase the needed PPEs.

   “Their contribution goes a long way in support of our country’s battle against COVID-19 to save the lives of our fellowmen.”

   While they are grateful for the generosity of all donors, LCP acknowledges that support must be sustained. For them to keep up with its level of operations over the next 2 weeks, they would need about 10,000 isolation gowns.

   Aside from supporting LCP, Bayer also donated PPEs and product samples to other selected hospitals in Metro Manila heavily engaged in managing COVID-19 patients. Bryan B. Rivera

Taguig urban farmers sustain livelihood and nutritious food despite lockdown due to Covid 19

April 17, 2020

Farm technologies found between high-rise buildings have led to a more reliable food source and year-round livelihood to urban residents facing job and food challenges due to the Covid 19 lockdown.

   The 30-member volunteer farmer residents of the Good Food Farm in Barangay Ususan, Taguig are more grateful than ever for partnering with Bayer Philippines and being trained on how to grow vegetables and herbs under its Bayer Kubo project.

   This includes supplying the seeds to be planted, regular monitoring, and technical assistance provided by Rise Against Hunger and Urban Agriculture Philippines.

   The 300-square meter Bayer Kubo farm is literally just a few steps away from their residences at Pamayanang Diego Silang in medium-rise BCDA Housing. Some of the technologies are made using available resources, such as fermented fruit juice (FFJ) and fermented plant juice (FPJ) used as growth enhancers and pest deterrents for their crops.

Good Food Farm representative looking after crops at the Bayer Kubo in Barangay Ususan, Taguig City

Blessing during the Covid Crisis

   Since its launch in January this year, the community has not sold much of its produce as the newly trained farmers were still learning the ropes.

   However, when the enhanced community quarantine was imposed in mid-March, the project became a blessing for the residents because it was a sustainable source of food when people became worried about the lockdown.

   Taguig urban farmers sustain livelihood and nutritious food with Bayer Kubo despite lockdown.

   “Our farmer volunteers are very happy because they are harvesting fresh and healthy vegetables everyday,” said Jerimy Soronel of Rise Against Hunger (RAH). In the farm plots, there were different varieties of vegetables, including tomatoes, okra, eggplant, sitaw, mustard, pechay, bitter gourd, lettuce, and bell pepper.

   Aside from the usual vegetables, they also harvested herbs and spices like basil, tarragon, oregano, roselle, taheebo, gotu kola, serpentine, and lemongrass.

Hunger for More Knowledge

Malou Furio, Good Food Farm president and one of the residents, said they are set to replant this next season and are expecting vegetable seeds from the Department of Agriculture which has allotted funding for urban agriculture projects.

   “We don’t want to neglect our farm,” said Furio. “It is good that we are able to continue being productive during this lockdown.”

   The community is eager to learn more about increasing their output from vegetable farming so that they can turn the farm into a business venture.

   However, some of these learning activities were delayed.

   “Because of the quarantine, some of the scheduled trainings were postponed, but we still managed to maintain the existing crops and apply what we already know,” added Furio.

   “We rely on our farmers to continue tilling the land so that we can have food on our tables in the next few months,” said Bryan Rivera, head of communications, public affairs, and sustainability for Bayer Philippines.

   “Having an opportunity to create food where it’s not usually grown is a worthwhile experience that Barangay Ususan residents are truly enjoying.”

Training being conducted among farmer residents on how to produce organic fertilizers

Attention Shift to Agriculture

   The Department of Agriculture has called on all sectors to support agriculture during this crisis to prevent food shortage. Particularly, the agency met with the Philippine Seed Industry Association (PSIA) to lead its urban agriculture promotion in Metro Manila by working with DA and the local government units.

   “In our current quarantine measures, aside from our frontline health workers and need for sustained food distribution, agriculture has been given the attention it deserves,” added Rivera.    “Incidentally, our Bayer Kubo project is also getting more support from the people managing the vegetable crops since it is a fundamental source of food.”

More than just a Farm

   Interestingly, the Bayer Kubo urban farm is a holistic venue not only for growing food. It plans to serve the community on concerns related to health.

   “We consider Bayer Kubo as providing a wider scope of benefits to enhance and strengthen urban communities. This includes increasing awareness and appreciation of urban agriculture, promote health & wellness, and introduce other practical topics that would benefit the residents,” said Rivera.

   Even likely to be critical in the future, as the population increases and climate change renders more farms to be less productive, farmers will need more opportunities and technologies to counter a decline in harvest.

   When countries slowly transition to aging populations, more people will consequently turn to health solutions to care for themselves and their loved ones. Melody Mendoza Aguiba/Bryan B. Rivera

Intellectual property assets to boost investment in agriculture, uplift poor farmers in a new SEARCA program

SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio advocates equal distribution of wealth in agriculture especially among marginalized farmers

April 17, 2020

Philippines-based  Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) is boosting  ownership of intellectual property (IP) assets to help prop up agriculture investments while ensuring broader based wealth distribution among “poorest of the poor” farmers.

   As IP assets encourage ownership of wealth, acquisition of IP assets by more farm technocrats, enterprises, and farmers’ cooperatives is part of the agenda in SEARCA’s 11th Five-Year Plan (11FYP).

   The Philippines still has very limited capacity to obtain IP assets—commercialization licenses, patents, copyright, trade secrets, trademarks—that hold tremendous value in creating wealth among new entrepreneurs.

   “SEARCA will formulate and establish its intellectual-property (IP) policy to ensure that product and technologies reach the intended and ultimate beneficiaries without much financial burden,” according to SEARCA’s 11thFYP.

   “Guided by this IP policy, SEARCA will facilitate licensing and transfer of technologies developed by universities to industry players to create products for the marketplace.”

   SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio is advocating for adoption of Agriculture 4.0—a concept of the future of agriculture focusing on the use of big data, Internet of Things (IoT), precision farming, and disruptive agriculture  for increased business efficiency, according to Proagrica.

   “SEARCA will be a gateway to the future of agricultural development as it builds open innovation and open science spaces. These spaces will operate a platform—online and otherwise, systems or modular—of agri-innovations, sustained best practices, emerging agribusiness models, and smart disruptive solutions.”

   While tapping digital and technology for agriculture advancement, SEARCA is concerned about how benefits will be distributed equally, particularly among poor farmers as poverty remains prevalent among rural farmers in the Philippines, among other Southeast Asian (SEA) countries.

   One strategy of SEARCA in its new five-year plan to be implemented up to 2025 is to tap not only private enterprises but also mass-based, grassroots-based farmers’ cooperatives.

   “Cooperatives can be the best participatory organizational form that could effectively deliver the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SEARCA will contribute to providing access to new sources of capital that will allow them to grow and flourish.”

   “SEARCA will facilitate access of cooperatives to a new breed of talent that will lead and manage agribusiness enterprises as well as appropriate, safe breakthrough technologies.”

   Several projects of SEARCA have shown that while investments in agriculture has increased in the past decades among SEA countries, wealth distribution particularly among poor farmers has been limited.

  Such equitable distribution of benefits among the poorest farmers is viable via legal tools through policies that SEARCA also encourages to be adopted by government.

   “(Cooperatives will be a) leader in economic, social, and environmental sustainability. (Cooperatives are) the model of participation more preferred by people and the fastest growing form of enterprise.”

Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA director, pushes for adoption of Agriculture 4.0 toward digital and innovative farm practices

   For business and industry, formation of more public-private partnerships, new business models, and more innovative entrepreneurial ecosystems for new start-ups should be encouraged. 

   “Business and industry, together with SEARCA, will endeavor to invest mission-oriented efforts to enact the governance mindset change needed to balance the interests of business and society, considering social and institutional innovation to improve transparency, participation, and sustainability.”

   These are the other parts of the Agriculture 4.0 agenda in SEARCA’s five-year plan:

 1.      Open Innovation and Agri-Incubation.  Partnering with the players and actors of the innovation community such as incubator houses, venture capital funders, universities, research institutions, as well as startups, small and medium enterprises, and corporations could support the goal of SEARCA.

   “While most startups are focused on developing digital technologies, incubators and start-ups focused on Agriculture Research and Development technologies do not appear as popular in Southeast Asia.”

2.      Knowledge and Technology Transfer SEARCA (through IP Policy).

3.      Project Development, Monitoring and Evaluation.  SEARCA will implement Research Grants with Industry Partners – Grants for Research Towards Agricultural Innovative Solutions (GRAINS) through at least four distinct mechanisms: 1.) Graduate Research with an Industry Partner, 2.) Call for Research Proposals Based on Industry Need, 3.) Engaging the Industry and the Youth in Promoting Agriculture and Rural Development, and 4.) Academe-Industry-Government Interconnectivity.

   SEARCA crafted its five-year plan with these products and services in mind to be delivered by its programs:

 1. Development of next generation agriculture leaders and professionals;

2. Policy analysis and recommendations for the international, national, and local levels;

3. Economic, social, and technological knowledge creation in the agricultural ecosystem;

4. Program design, implementation, and support;

5. Just-in-time decision making support for decision makers; and

6. Incubation and innovation of new products, services, and business models.

   SEARCA is hosted by the Philippine Government under the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), an intergovernment organization, with funding support from international and local partners for joint programs and projects. Melody Mendoza Aguiba

Bayer deploys high-yielding hybrid rice seeds, supports DA Plant Plant Plant to counter COVID 19 effects to the economy

Calamba City, April 13, 2020 –

Breeding of 2 superior varieties produce high yielding rice plants with heavier panicles, full-packed grains

Bayer has continued its seed processing and distribution operations in its Calamba, Laguna and Pulilan, Bulacan plant facilities in a bid to support the government’s food resiliency program, particularly the ALPAS Kontra COVID-19 or Plant, Plant, Plant Program.

   As the business sector is adversely affected by the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine extension, the Department of Agriculture reaffirmed the importance of unhampered movement of food and agricultural products.

   This includes home quarantine exemptions for agribusiness personnel and those involved in processing and logistics of agricultural inputs.

   With these guidelines in place, Bayer has responded by mobilizing its product supply and logistics teams to prepare hybrid rice and hybrid corn seeds for timely delivery to its channels.

    “We are looking at having bulk of our Arize® hybrid rice seeds and DEKALB® hybrid corn seeds available to farmers before end of April,” said Bayer Crop Science Country Commercial Lead Iiinas Ivan Lao.

   “We appreciate the commitment given by the Department of Agriculture to help our farmers and for recognizing early on that farmers need good performing seeds if we expect to sustain our food production capabilities.”

   Bayer is expecting more corn farmers to plant their DEKALB hybrid corn seeds having built-in resistance against Fall Armyworm, which has been a significant insect pest concern for farmers in the previous planting seasons.

   Bayer’s intensified supply of rice and corn seeds is in response to the Department of Agriculture’s call to support farm inputs in light of early planting aimed at countering the effects of COVID 19 lockdown.

   The program is called “Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) Kontra COVID-19″ or also known as the Plant, Plant, Plant Program.

   For its Arize® hybrid rice seeds, Bigante Plus is one of the most popular products in the market and recommended for wet season planting with bacterial leaf blight or BLB tolerance.    

   The Department of Agriculture aims to provide financial assistance to farmers in the form of cash subsidy and inputs to encourage them to plant & harvest early in order to maintain the country’s inventory level of rice in the succeeding months. Support was also committed for corn farmers.

   “While we want to serve the needs of our corn and rice farmers, safety remains a top priority for all our employees,” said Lao.

   “We have established stringent safety measures at our plant facilities to minimize the risk of COVID-19 infection among our employees and agencies.”

   As part of its commitment to safety, Bayer deployed a skeletal workforce in its plant facilities and set up protocols involving proper hygiene and social distancing.

   These steps cover the entire operational cycle from transportation of its workers to and from the site and all the activities being done to process the seeds and ship them to agriculture distributors across the country.

   “Since we’re expecting less face to face interaction with customers and farmers due to the quarantine, we encourage them to interact with us via text message or through our local Facebook page,” added Lao. Bayer’s text messaging service, called Bayer TXT Connect, aims to address any inquiries about its agriculture products. Farmers can send their name, location, and message to 21586727 for Globe/TM or 225656727 for Smart/TNT/Sun. Alternatively, they can also visit their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/BayerCropSciencePH/ for inquiries via Messenger.Bryan P. Rivera

Bayer drives agricultural innovation with year 2020 pipeline projects

Short-stature corn stands several feet shorter than standard variety in Bayer’s Jerseyville, Illinois demonstration plot. Credit: Bob Reiter/Bayer
April 4, 2020                                   

Bayer of Germany has announced year 2020 pipeline projects for Crop Science including the launch of short stature corn after delivering in 2019 55 key projects aligned with an aim of cutting carbon footprint in light of imminent climate change.   

Providing farmers around the world with more than 450 newly commercialized hybrids and varieties of corn, soybeans, cotton and vegetables. Bayer’s annual investment is 2.3 billion euros in crop science Research & Development (R&D).  
Bayer continually converts its R&D investment into innovative products that match the complexities farmers, consumers and the planet are anticipated to face.

   “At Bayer, we are driven to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges. This means helping feed the world without starving our planet. Farmers with operations of all sizes need innovation not only to grow enough nutritious food, but also to do this in a sustainable manner that respects planetary boundaries,” said Liam Condon, Bayer Crop Science president and board member of Bayer based in  Monheim, Germany.   

“Our employees are united around this goal, and our unrivaled pipeline is delivering against it.”  

Short stature corn

   Bayer’s short stature corn is expected to provide environmental sustainability benefits through a transformational shift in crop management flexibility.   

Because it is several feet shorter than today’s hybrid field corn (6-7 feet versus 10-11 feet), the product concept allows farmers to have better in-season crop access for precision applications of inputs, such as nitrogen, which can be made when the plant needs them most.      
Some short stature corn hybrids can also be planted closer together, enabling the production of more corn on the same amount of land and potentially reducing requirements for land and water.   

Shorter stature will also help improve standability, including better green snap and stalk lodging tolerance, helping reduce crop loss from challenging environmental conditions such as high winds from extreme weather (that destroy corn plants).   

Both the breeding and biotechnology approaches to create short stature corn are advancing to Phase 3.  Bayer also unveiled a third pathway to short stature corn, a Discovery Phase project that has achieved proof of concept through gene editing.   

According to Bob Reiter of Bayer, these are other advantages farmers can expect from short stature corn—given commercialization:

1. You can plant short stature corn seeds more closely together, producing more crops on the same amount of land.

2. Under limited water conditions, plants with the native trait have shown reduced signs of stress.

3. You can access short stature corn fields with farm equipment much later in the growing season, making it possible to more precisely and efficiently apply needed nutrients and fungicides.   

Bayer also announced a new herbicide molecule:  the new post-emergence mode of action for broad acre weed control in 30 years. Multiple MOAs (mechanism of action) for weed control are important for managing herbicide resistance and enabling practices that help to sequester greenhouse gases, like no-till farming.   

Discovering new herbicide MOAs has been a challenge for the industry, but Bayer’s continued investment, leading compound library and advanced screening capabilities have enabled a breakthrough.   

Bayer announced a molecule in Phase 2 of early development which has demonstrated effective control of key resistant grasses in early research.   

The work demonstrates progress toward Bayer’s long term commitment to investing approximately 5 billion euros in additional methods to combat weeds over the next decade.       

Discovery of this molecule is being complemented by a discovery-phase program to identify and develop a corresponding biotechnology trait to convey herbicide tolerance and initial approaches are under evaluation.  

Making best-in-class, better

   XtendFlex® soybeans, the next generation of weed control for soybeans, is advancing to launch phase this spring in the U.S., pending regulatory approvals.

This product builds on the foundation of Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® soybeans and adds tolerance to another herbicide, glufosinate.   

Beyond Xtendflex,  Bayer advanced both fourth- and fifth-generation soy herbicide tolerant traits, leading the industry with tolerances to six herbicide classes expected to be launched by 2030.

Converting R&D into tailored, value-added solutions for farmers

   There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to farming. Every combination of products must be tailored to meet the needs of each customer’s field. Digital tools deepen understanding of those needs, accelerating Bayer’s ability to help farmers with individualized challenges.

   The Climate FieldView™ digital agriculture platform, now available in more than 20 countries, continues to lead the industry with its comprehensive, connected suite of tools that help farmers make data-driven decisions to increase their productivity.   

Adoption of the platform has quickly accelerated due to the value farmers around the globe find in the technology, and FieldView’s™ innovation in turning data into actionable insights has led farmers to connect more than 95 million acres globally of their farm data to the platform, making it the leader in data connectivity.

   The first offering of its kind, Seed Advisor enables better decision making with a predictive model that combines the industry’s largest proprietary seed genetics library with regional seed performance data to help predict the best performing hybrids for each of a farmer’s fields.
Performance testing from 2017-2019 demonstrated a consistent 6-9 bushel per acre yield advantage in farmer field trials. Planned pre-commercial expansions for 2021 include an additional three states vastly growing the number of U.S. corn acres.

   In South America, Advanced Seed Prescriptions are unlocking yield potential using a farmer’s historical field data or field health imagery, combined with Bayer proprietary field-testing results, to provide variable rate corn density planting prescriptions tailored to their unique yield or profitability goals.

Recent trials have demonstrated an average yield benefit of 3.2 bushels per acre across Brazil and Argentina.
   Bayer’s breeding advantage is the product of sophisticated breeding techniques, data science, and digital analytics platforms in concert with the world’s largest germplasm library.

Novel applications of machine learning and artificial intelligence continue to improve the speed and scale at which we can arrive at the best products to meet each grower’s needs.   

Identifying the best possible products earlier in the pipeline enables more extensive field testing in diverse conditions and more valuable product insights collected over the course of product development.   

This data supports the success of the new hybrids and varieties we deliver to farmers each year. In corn, this has translated to Bayer’s leading position in five of the six key corn geographies worldwide.

   Bayer views investment in innovation as investment in more sustainable agriculture for the next generation.   

Bayer innovation focuses on producing more on each acre, reducing the environmental impact of farming, and enabling better-informed decisions through data. The company’s commitment to sustainability also includes making innovation available and applicable to farmers with operations of all sizes, all over the world.
  Bayer’s ThryvOn™ Technology, a trait for lygus and thrips control in cotton, is expected to launch in 2021, pending regulatory approval. ThryvOn TM Technology is predicted to provide immense value to farmers by supporting healthy plant growth and helping protect yield potential against pests that, until now, couldn’t be managed through a biotech trait.       

Advancements in insect-protection traits reduce the need for foliar insecticide applications and improve productivity per acre.

   Today’s crop protection solutions include safer and more effective chemistries through Bayer’s decades-long commitment to evolving the company’s portfolio – including advanced formulations, stricter safety standards and greater efficacy.   

An example is iblon™ technology, a novel new fungicide for cereals. Wheat treated with iblon™ exceeded market standards by on average 2.2 percent higher yields, allowing farmers to be more efficient and sustainable at all levels of their business.

   “We are converting R&D into solutions for farmers that enhance productivity, create new value and reduce the use of inputs necessary to produce a crop,” said Bob Reiter, head of R&D for the Crop Science Division. “Thanks to our leading positions across technology platforms, Bayer is best positioned to discover, combine and tailor solutions – serving unmet needs and imagining new ways to farm – and that’s a win for farmers, consumers and our planet.”

Short-tall corn comparisons shown with short stature corn (Left) before the equipment against conventional corn (Right), credit- The Furrow

First Anti-coagulation Experts Summit held as new rivaroxaban to reduce adverse cardiovascular disease cases

March 10, 2020 – Filipino patients suffering from coronary artery disease or peripheral artery disease (CAD/PAD) may no longer need to look further to reduce their risk of major adverse cardiovascular events as a lower dosage of rivaroxaban has been introduced in the country for the new indication along with aspirin. This development is a major highlight presented by the Team Xarelto of Bayer  Pharmaceuticals during the first successful Anti-coagulation Experts’ Summit at the Peninsula Manila. The summit was culminated by Dr. Christopher Hammett’s presentation of the COMPASS study showing that combined treatment of rivaroxaban (approved by the Food and Drug Administration) 2.5 mg twice daily and acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) 100 mg once daily resulted in a significant reduction in major cardiovascular events, including myocardial infarction, stroke, and cardiovascular death. It demonstrated lower risk of occurrence of such incidents compared to taking rivaroxaban alone or acetylsalicylic acid by itself. It is notable that the COMPASS study was stopped 1 year ahead of expectations in February 2017 due to overwhelming efficacy from the said combined treatment.

New indication for coronary and peripheral artery disease launched during doctors‘ summit ·

     First-ever Anticoagulation Experts’ (ACE) Summit organized by Bayer Pharmaceuticals to launch rivaroxaban and aspirin indication for patients diagnosed with CAD/PAD  

Team Xarelto of Bayer Pharmaceuticals after the first successful Anti-coagulation Experts’ Summit in the Philippines

Taguig City, April 3, 2020 – Filipino patients suffering from coronary artery disease or peripheral artery disease (CAD/PAD) may no longer need to look further to reduce their risk of major adverse cardiovascular events as a lower dosage of rivaroxaban has been introduced in the country for the new indication along with aspirin. This indication was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year and now made available starting this month.

To celebrate this milestone, Bayer Pharmaceuticals division recently organized the 1st Anticoagulation Experts’ Summit at The Peninsula Manila Hotel, which was attended by 126 top caliber vascular cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, and neurologists from different health institutions across the country.

A lineup of speakers was fielded to discuss the highlights and different benefits of rivaroxaban across different indications, and this was culminated by Dr. Christopher Hammett’s presentation of the COMPASS study showing that combined treatment of rivaroxaban 2.5 mg twice daily and acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) 100 mg once daily resulted in a significant reduction in major cardiovascular events, including myocardial infarction, stroke, and cardiovascular death. It demonstrated lower risk of occurrence of such incidents compared to taking rivaroxaban alone or acetylsalicylic acid by itself. It is notable that the COMPASS study was stopped 1 year ahead of expectations in February 2017 due to overwhelming efficacy from the said combined treatment.

Dr. Hammett is an interventional cardiologist at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in Australia. He is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Cardiac Society of Australia and New Zealand. He has been involved in all the landmark trials of low-dose rivaroxaban.

Other doctor experts who presented in the evening event were Dr. John Añonuevo and Dr. David Raymund Salvador, while the program was moderated by Dr. Myla Gloria Supe.

In 2017, deaths attributed to coronary heart diseases totaled 84,120, representing 15% of total deaths in the Philippines. On the other hand, mortality from cerebrovascular diseases was pegged at 59,774 in the same year. This included stroke, which further puts patients at risk of recurrence, making stroke a top health burden. People at risk for cardiovascular disease or stroke are prescribed with a non-Vitamin K antagonist anticoagulant (NOAC) as a preventive approach.

The newly launched CAD/PAD indication for rivaroxaban puts it in a unique position in the Philippines since currently, no other NOAC in the market can claim for this same benefit to Filipino patients.

Team Xarelto of Bayer Pharmaceuticals after the first successful Anti-coagulation Experts’ Summit in the Philippines