Monsanto develops tools for 2020 farmers

The farmers of 2020 may have technologies at their fingertips that are pipe dreams today. Yet some of the technologies they will access are already in the pipeline. You should get access to some of these technologies before 2020.

That was the message from Stephen Padgette and Bob Reiter of Monsanto. Padgette is vice president of biotechnology. Reiter is vice president of breeding technology. Monsanto’s pipeline is just an example of what one company in the biotechnology and breeding business hopes to bring to the market. Other companies are also stuffing pipelines with unique technologies.

Key Points

Nitrogen utilization trait in corn takes a major step — it moves to Phase 2.

Monsanto and BASF continue work on improving dicamba formulations.

Unique discovery in breeding could take gray leaf spot resistance to a new level.

Monsanto’s pipeline consists of four phases, from preliminary work in Phase 1 to seeking final regulatory approval in Phase 4. Padgette and Reiter outlined the status of some projects that recently entered a different phase of development. BASF is collaborating with Monsanto on the first three crop-stress related projects.

Corn nitrogen utilization. “We’re excited this effort has moved from Phase 1 to Phase 2,” Padgette says. “There are years of testing ahead, but it’s moving forward. It will mean either more yield from the same N rates or the ability to apply less N and get the same yield. That will become clearer through more testing in Phase 2.”

Second-generation of high-yield soybeans. This project also moves to Phase 2. “We’re seeing significant yield advantages, and we believe the yield boost will be additive to the first-generation trait in the field now,” Padgette notes.

Wheat advancements. Working closely with BASF, Monsanto is pursuing two fronts — increasing drought tolerance in wheat and adding herbicide tolerance. The project is in Phase 1.

Dicamba soybeans. “This one is moving to Phase 4, and that’s a big step forward,” Padgette says. “We have our regulatory trials completed and data submitted. Coupled with Roundup Ready technology, this should be big for weed control. Dicamba is very good on broadleaf weeds, including giant ragweed.”

Second–generation of insect protection in soybeans. Multiple genes are involved, Padgette says. The goal for commercial release of insect protection on soybeans is 2013. By then, he’s hoping Monsanto can release varieties with multiple genes with multiple modes of action.

Breeding pipeline

Currently in the breeding pipeline are:

Gray leaf spot. Monsanto’s breeding programs have uncovered unique gray leaf spot resistance. This discovery is in Phase 2, Reiter says. In the meantime, breeders continue to focus on gray leaf spot resistance for hybrids that will be grown over the next few seasons.

Aphid resistance. Monsanto breeders are already at work on the second generation of aphid resistance for soybeans.

Cotton project. “We’re excited to be making progress against the root knot nematode,” Reiter says. “We think we could eventually increase lint yield 8% to 10%.”

Better broccoli. Vegetable breeders are at work on improving the nutritional value of broccoli. This involves oxidants, and could be a breakthrough in the health and nutrition field, Reiter says.

“We have no plans of slowing down anytime soon,” Reiter says. “We hope to discover and deliver more products.”

This article published in the February, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.