Cotton growers hear about new work at Monsanto Megasite

On the first cool and rainy morning many could remember, cotton growers got to go inside one of the world’s state-of-the-art facilities in Lubbock, Texas, to see the latest advances in cotton, as well as get a glimpse into the future.

It’s officially named the Texas Cotton Breeding and Technology Center, but it’s simply known as the “Monsanto Megasite.”

The 43,000-square-foot facility spread over two buildings is only about a mile south of the Preston Smith International Airport and is Monsanto’s main cotton breeding station for its Deltapine cottons.

Key Points

Monsanto Megasite at Lubbock, Texas, uses the latest technology for cotton.

Monsanto is focusing more work on dryland and limited-irrigation crops.

Managed Drought Trials are testing key hybrids for commercialization.


Monsanto has launched 27 commercial traits in the last 15 years to help farmers produce better crops. (Monsanto biotech crops have been grown by more than 15 million farmers worldwide.)

Much excitement surrounds Genuity advances. Genuity products from Monsanto are combining multiple traits into a single seed.

Drought trials test hybrids

Of special interest, particularly this season, Genuity drought trait technology expanded this year. The Managed Drought Trials have been testing key hybrids for commercialization. This work has focused on induced vegetative and flowering stress to evaluate cottons.

Darren G. Jones, Rolling Plains cotton breeder for Monsanto, says Monsanto is looking at bolstering germplasm to bring cotton growers the traits they need. And in his part of Texas, much of the cotton is in dryland production.

“Monsanto is going to give more attention to dryland or managed-irrigation cotton — not just premium ground/premium irrigated cotton,” Jones says.

Dave Albers, Monsanto cotton germplasm manager, says the historic drought and record number of 100-plus degree days in 2011 resulted in growing conditions Albers calls “Arizona-type heat.”

Take the heat

DP 1044 B2RF does well in such extreme heat where it has irrigation available. It also is a very storm-resistant variety as the cotton will stay in the bur longer in rough weather. Both of those factors make the variety popular in Texas and Oklahoma.

But Monsanto’s “Class of ’12” candidates such as MON 10R011 B2R2 or MON 10R013 B2R2 both have improved stormproof traits, while MON 10R020 B2R2 is durable in tough environments.

Dryland work in the first year of strip trials targeted 40 locations. Researchers and breeders compare the cotton to top commercial and competitive check plots for comparisons.

Albers notes Monsanto is now preparing for on-farm field-scale drought trials upcoming in 2012.

“Texas is our focus — whether that’s the High Plains or Rolling Plains,” adds Dallan Maas, area business manager, Monsanto West Texas.

Nevertheless, Albers notes some “Texas-type” cotton varieties are showing surprising potential in the midsouth and southeast regions of the cotton belt, too.

Working together

Monsanto bought Deltapine in 2007 and continues to see benefits for growers from Texas and Delta connections at Scott, Miss.

For example, Jones says besides the vast breeding information on cotton characteristics at Lubbock, the state-of-the-art fiber laboratory in Mississippi helps give them feedback on fiber quality of Deltapine varieties.

Jones says Monsanto is able to gin its own cotton at the Lubbock facility. The megasite also has two growth chambers.

“We can grow cotton in January,” he says.

11113840B.tif
checking out FACILITY: Cotton growers got a recent tour of the Monsanto Megasite facility in Lubbock, Texas, to see cutting-edge work.

11113840C.tif

This PLACE IS BIG: The Monsanto Megasite is 43,000 square feet spread over two buildings. From ginning cotton on the site to the ability to raise cotton in growth chambers in January, the breeding station uses cutting-edge technology that will benefit growers.

11113840A.tif

TAKE THE HEAT: Dave Albers, cotton germplasm manager for Monsanto, says more energy will be focused on cotton varieties that have greater tolerance to drought and rough environments.

This article published in the November, 2011 edition of THE FARMER-STOCKMAN.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.