Syngenta stoked ideas of consolidation among farm biotechnology groups by acquiring Pasteuria Bioscience and highlighting its increasing interest in the market for alternative crop protection products.
The Swiss-based group, the world's biggest farm sprays company, paid up to $113m for Pasteuria Bioscience, which has developed a product for controlling nematode worms, major crop pests, using bacteria rather than traditional chemicals.
The takeover, which comes a year after Syngenta signed a partnership deal with Pasteuria to develop biological controls for nematodes, heralds the release in 2014 of the first product to use the technology.
And it comes amid increasing interest in alternatives to bulk agrichemicals, some of which have raised concerns over broader environmental effects, besides over leaching into human drinking water.
Indeed, Wednesday's deal follows widespread speculation that Bayer's takeover of US-based biopesticides group Agraquest, for $425m plus potential bonus payments, would kick-off of a spate of deals.
Shares in many alternative pest control groups, such as London-listed Plant Health Care, showed gains after Bayer unveiled its Agraquest acquisition two months ago.
Syngenta said that while nematodes "are a major pest across all crops", causing damage estimated by Pasteuria at $100bn a year, "the withdrawal of older solutions leaves growers with limited solutions" for controlling the worms.
Nematode-control products which have been withdrawn include Bayer's Temik product, as used against cotton pests, and chemicals based on methyl bromide, which was found to deplete the ozone layer.
The takeover of US-based Pasteuria was "a further example of our strategy of incorporating biological controls within our integrated offer to growers", John Atkin, Syngenta chief operating officer, said.
Other such products in the group's portfolio include Regalia, an alernative fungicide, and the Bioline range of insect control agents.
Pasteuria's appeal is based on the process it has developed for generating in the laboratory the anti-nematode bacteria, of the Pasteuria genus, which occur naturally in the soil, and from which the group gets its name.
The initial Pasteuria-based product will be a treatment of the nematode which causes soybean cysts.
Syngenta shares closed 0.4% higher at SFr343.60.