Now in its 30th year, Hornbeck Seed -- a well-known Mid-South soybean, rice and wheat seed company -- has been purchased by Bayer CropScience. Hornbeck’s in-house breeding program and germplasm bank appealed to Bayer, a company looking to make a move into the soybean seed market.

A Bayer press release says Hornbeck LibertyLink varieties “will continue to be a key near term area of focus of the breeding program to help address weed resistance” in the South.

For more, see Hornbeck and Bayer.

The acquisition “mainly means we’ll be able to continue our HBK-branded soybean business as well as our LibertyLink Halo brand,” said Troy Hornbeck, CEO of Hornbeck Seeds, during a Wednesday press conference. The expansion “of our soytech research means we’ll expand to new traits and our genetic out-licensing will be expanded.

“We chose Bayer CropScience because, basically, (it) recognized the importance of HBK’s technology, the experience and value of our people. ... (Bayer) will allow us to continue to conduct business with the same principles (we’ve built) the business on: providing quality products and service to the customers we value.”

The purchase of Hornbeck is “significant for Bayer CropScience strategically,” said Lee Rivenbark,Bayer’s Global Head Cotton and Head U.S. BioScience. Bayer is “very active in our ‘core’ crops: cotton, canola, vegetables and a global rice business. But, most recently, Bayer has continued to look at ways to grow our seed and trait footprint … and plan to continue to expand our seed-licensing business.”

The purchase of Hornbeck “offers us an opportunity to expand an integrated trait and germplasm business in soybeans, very similar to what we’re doing in cotton.

“Hornbeck has grown into one of the Mid-South’s largest and most reputable seed suppliers. They not only have high-quality germplasm and excellent customer service, but the people have extensive operational experience in soybeans.”

Bayer is now “truly in a place to provide a comprehensive package of next-generation traits in leading germplasm in the soybean marketplace,” said Andy Hurst, product manager for the LibertyLink trait and glufosinate, including Ignite and Rely herbicides.In addition to the South’s soybean-growing area “this germplasm will have an excellent fit in South America. … Bayer will have an opportunity to further develop multi-herbicide tolerance. In addition to LibertyLink proprietary glyphosate tolerance, (that includes) tolerance to the HPPD family of herbicides, cyst nematode resistance, the potential for insect resistance in soybeans, and combine all that that with all the defensive traits inherent in the Hornbeck breeding program. We truly believe it will be a powerful combination.”

Is the company expanding nationwide?

“From a traits perspective … Bayer fully intends to be a nationwide provider of value-added traits and germplasm, going forward,” said Hurst.

“We want a U.S. footprint for Bayer traits so it will expand throughout the North and Midwest,” said Rivenbark. “For the branded seed business, the majority of focus will be in the South, where we have a strong cotton germplasm footprint. That will be very complimentary with the soybean business (market share) that Hornbeck has worked hard to achieve, particularly in the Mid-South. We can expand that throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, as well.”  

What kind of timeframe does Bayer have for such an expansion?

Hurst: “We have a plan to launch LibertyLink combined with glyphosate tolerance and HPPD herbicide tolerance” around 2015.

“Longer-term, our next generation trait packages would potentially include insect resistance, nematode resistance, multiple herbicides tolerance and value-added traits for oilseed grains. The intent is to look at the best traits – both transgenic and non-transgenic – in our breeding efforts to improve yields and the value of soybeans.”

Rivenbark said while there were no immediate plans by Bayer to purchase other seed companies “we’re certainly active in trying to grow our seed and trait footprint. Today, there’s nothing around the corner. However, those options are always available. We’re a global company.”

As soybeans are a strategic crop “we’ll continue to invest a large percentage of our sales in research and development – both in traits and intense breeding. To do that, you need to expand you germplasm base with high-quality germplasm. … We’re certainly looking for those opportunities. So, you can expect more from Bayer CropScience in years to come in soybeans.”