MONHEIM, GERMANY — Bayer CropScience on June 27 said it has signed a license and cooperation agreement with RAGT Semences S.A.S., a seed and garden supply company based in Rodez, France.

Under the agreement, RAGT will grant Bayer access to winter wheat germplasm and associated molecular markers. Bayer said RAGT has “one of the strongest winter wheat breeding programs in Europe.” Both companies will explore joint projects to further enhance wheat breeding, and RAGT will be given options to license Bayer CropScience wheat traits. Bayer did not disclose financial terms of the agreement.

“We are very excited about our partnership with RAGT and the opportunities it will bring in the future,” said Sandra E. Peterson, chairman and chief executive officer of Bayer CropScience. “This mutually beneficial agreement will further strengthen the wheat breeding programs of both partners. This licensing and cooperation agreement is another important step to achieve our goal to improve sustainable cereal production with superior solutions based on our leading crop protection portfolio, agricultural service solutions and best in class wheat varieties. These solutions will enable growers to increase the productivity of wheat in a sustainable way addressing challenges like climate change.”

Bayer described wheat as a “key crop” for both parties in the agreement adding that wheat “deserves huge research efforts involving both conventional and new breeding techniques in order to address the future challenges in agriculture.”

The pact follows a July 2009 announcement by Bayer CropScience of plans to expand its global activities in seeds and traits to include a focus on cereals. As part of its investment plans, the company is increasing its research and development resources to raise productivity of wheat cropping, the company said.

Toward that end and in addition to the company’s own research and development efforts, Bayer CropScience has entered into collaborations with CSIRO in Australia, the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, USA, and Evogene in Israel. In 2010, Bayer CropScience acquired two wheat breeding programs in the Ukraine. The first new wheat varieties from the company’s global wheat breeding program are expected to be available within the next five years.

“Wheat productivity is increasing at less than 1% annually, while the annual global demand is growing at approximately double that percentage,” Bayer CropScience said.

Bayer CropScience, a division of Bayer AG with annual sales of €6.83 billion ($9.7 billion), offers a range of products and services. The company has a global workforce of 20,700, represented in more than 120 countries.