Crop Genetics International and Ciba-Geigy Corp. said Wednesdaythey will jointly assess a biological herbicide they hope eventually willcapture a share of the $1.6 billion worldwide market for non-selectiveherbicides.The herbicide to be tested this summer evolved from Crop Genetics'X-tend technology, which involves combining a naturally occurringbacteria active as a plant pathogen with a reduced rate of a chemicalherbicide, while achieving the full effect of the chemical weed killer.Crop Genetics, of Columbia, Md., will supply the product while Ciba-Geigy's agricultural division, of Greensboro, N.C., will conduct fieldtrials in three states, focusing initially on key pests of the turf andornamental weed segment, Todd Taylor, director of businessdevelopment for Crop Genetics, told BioWorld. No money is changinghands in the agreement, which runs through September, he said.In September, "we will meet and look at the results of those trials anddetermine the next step in this collaboration, which hopefully will leadto a longer-term development agreement," Taylor said.Two years of field testing the X-tend technology showed "excitingactivity, but was not consistent over a range of conditions," saidTaylor, adding that concern is being addressed.St. Louis-based Monsanto Co.'s Roundup dominates the market with$1 billion in sales, while London-based Zeneca's Gramoxone has about$460 million in annual sales for non-selectives, which don'tdifferentiate between the types of weeds and plants they kill, Taylorsaid. Crop Genetics said biological herbicides are an environmentallyattractive alternative to the synthetic chemicals, but use has beenlimited because of cost considerations and lack of effectiveness inbroad-spectrum control.Crop Genetics first will work to show sufficient activity, Taylor said,and then develop a reasonable plan for economical production. "If we have a product that is successfully developed for that segment,it can be quite lucrative," Taylor said.Crop Genetics (NADSAQ:CROP) stock closed at $1.63 Thursday,down 13 cents per share.

-- Jim Shrine

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