Open Innovation

Meet our Scientists

Russell Jones: Innovator with a Mission

Keeping an eye on residues of crop protection products in the environment ensures their safe use: Russell Jones studies potential effects of chemicals in soil and water. The risk assessment tools he has helped develop are used in Europe and the US.

The best thing we can do for the environment is to increase crop yield. Otherwise, more land will have to be devoted to agriculture in order to feed a growing world population. This could mean that remaining natural areas would be lost. The harm done to the environment would greatly exceed that of any pesticide use.

When I first started in the field of agriculture at Bayer in 1982, I was like a fish out of water. I was trained as a chemical engineer and had no connection to agriculture whatsoever. Back then, we didn’t know much about what would happen when chemicals – such as herbicides, insecticides and nematicides – may move into and in water. We want our agricultural products to unfold their full activity on the plants and in the soil around the roots. But we don’t want residues moving into ground or surface water at levels where it might impact water quality or aquatic life.

To prevent this from happening, we needed to investigate. So, I became involved in the relatively new field of risk assessment. Essentially, the goal of our research is to find out what effect a crop protection product could have on the environment and if needed take corrective action before the product is put on the market. My colleagues and I do a lot of research and publish many papers about modelling the movement of crop protection products through the soil to ground water and through runoff into nearby streams and ponds. This work is an essential part of the registration process for new plant protection products with government agencies.

Collaboration on Science

An especially rewarding aspect of science is its collaborative nature. I work with several American and European industry groups in developing guidelines for water monitoring. And for a recent paper about the use of certain synthetic insecticides – known as pyrethroids – in residential areas, my team partnered with seven other companies, all of which have pyrethroids on the market. To do our modeling, we built a mockup of a California residential development, including house fronts, lawns, garage doors, a sprinkler system and a rainfall simulator to generate artificial rainfall. We found that by tweaking the application, runoff of pyrethroids from residential areas can be reduced by a factor of 40.

Shaping the Future

I feel strongly that my work is of major importance for the future of agriculture. We will need all possible available tools to feed a growing world population. Many people I encounter are critical about my work and the products we develop at Bayer. But as there are more and more people on the planet that need to be fed, the best thing we can do for the environment is to increase crop yield. Otherwise, the amount of land devoted to agriculture will have to increase in order to feed the growing world population. This could mean that remaining natural areas would be lost. The harm done to the environment would greatly exceed that of any pesticide use. In addition, up to 40 percent of global crop yields are lost to pests and diseases every year. These losses could double without pesticides – meaning food would become more expensive. People would still be able to afford to buy food in the US and in Europe, but when prices go up, others around the world will go hungry.

It’s a message we scientists need to get out to the public more. Better communication is the only way we can build trust. A good start is a Bayer program called “Making Science Make Sense,” which I volunteer for. I teach basic, and fun, science to elementary school kids, who visit Bayer on class trips. They – and I – have a blast when rockets fueled by an Alka-Seltzer go off. It’s also important for me to occasionally get away from anything related to work. Then I play the trombone in my church.

CV Russell Jones

1951 Born in Kansas City, Missouri

1969-1972 Bachelor and Master of Science, Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

1975 PhD, Chemical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley

1975-current Employed by Bayer predecessor companies and Bayer Crop Science

1988-1991 Research on the environmental behavior of crop protection products

1991-1993 Work in the UK involving the degradation and movement of crop protection products

1993- current Developing procedures for the environmentally safe use of crop protection products in participation with US industry and US scientific organizations

1994-current Member of EU scientific groups for environmental issues related to registration of crop protectants

Current Member of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, American Chemical Society, and Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry

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