A veteran of farming solutions
Mike Clarke left to join Bayer (Hoechst at the time), with the original plan of staying on for three years before travelling and working overseas.
Now a Senior Development Specialist with Bayer, Mike has stayed with the company for 10 times longer than he intended.
“We have contact with overseas colleagues and travel has shown me there are many great places in the world, but none beat Australia so I have stayed,” he said.
“Our group is lucky in that a few of us have been retained for a similar length, providing stability and experience, though thankfully new people have also come into the group with different ideas.
“The way the company currently operates, Bayer’s key competitive edge is new products aided by quality staff. I am lucky in that my role varies with each new product and Bayer encourages cross functional networking. The company’s support and flexibility in my case meant they were willing for me to be a university lecturer for two years whilst still working for the company.”
Mike is part of the company’s development group, which focuses on generating the data required to evaluate and register new crop products other than seeds.
At the beginning of each year, a review is conducted on the previous year’s work and the team then decides what is worthwhile pursuing before designing a trial program.
Mike is based in Perth, but spends most of his time in the field from April through to October conducting trials with farmers across WA – a part of the job he particularly loves.
“After spending a few months locked away in the of office over summer, it’s always good to get out in the field again,” he said.
“It can mean anything from being bitterly cold in a paddock in the early hours of winter mornings to enjoying our fantastic springs whilst recording responses from our newer products.”
“I consider myself very fortunate to be able to work in beautiful country WA and farmers have a lot of input into the products we develop, by allowing us to work with them to conduct the trials.
The thing that excites me most about my job is being able to see where the company will be in five to 10 years from now, so that when we have a difficult year or two the future prospects are drivers through those tougher periods.”
It normally takes at least five years to develop a product from the time Mike and his colleagues start working with it through to the time farmers get to use it on-farm.
Given Mike has been with Bayer for more than 30 years, it’s no surprise there have been a few stand-out products he has been involved in developing.
Group A herbicide, Hoegrass®, was one of those highlights, which at the time of its release played a vital role in broadacre weed control programs.
“I was lucky enough to be involved in the development of Hoegrass, which was a very good product by itself, but it also allowed the continued expansion of minimum tillage by controlling a problem weed in that system,” he said.
“In the longer term, Hoegrass has been very beneficial to farmers, even though almost complete resistance has since developed.
“A newer product like Velocity® has also been a highlight for me, as I was a field project leader in its development.
“That’s proving to be valuable to farmers, especially with resistance to other modes of action in wild radish.
I’ve recently spent a lot of time helping to develop Aviator® Xpro® foliar fungicide, which will now be used in many broadacre crops throughout WA, particularly by growers who have had issues with sclerotinia, which has increased in the last five years.
“Aviator Xpro offers growers another mode of action to help control sclerotinia.”
Mike said during his career, herbicide resistance had been one of the most significant challenges facing growers and the industry, but he saw it as the company’s role to develop new products to fit into that changed landscape. He said Bayer was one of few companies around the world working on new herbicides to help in the fight against herbicide resistance, dedicating substantial input of monetary and non-monetary resources into combating the issue.
“Something I’ve always had in the back of my mind, even when I first started, was that we’re not just here to develop a product for the company, we’re here to develop a solution for farmers,” he said.