During its first-quarter 2007 fiscal year conference call, Monsanto Company reported on a number of research-and-development (R&D) advancements, highlighting progress across both its biotechnology and breeding platforms.
For the company’s three High Impact Technology (HIT) projects, Monsanto reported progress in its next-generation herbicide-resistant Roundup RReady2Yield soybeans; ongoing yield benefits from its first-generation drought-tolerant corn, currently in its third year of field testing; and progress with a new soybean (Vistive III), which are designed to have a similar oil profile to olive oil.
Monsanto is working toward a 5 bushel per acre yield improvement with its RReady2Yield soybeans.
High-Oil soybeans, a soybean project from Monsanto’s Renessen joint venture with Cargill, advanced to Phase 3 after the technology continued to demonstrate a clear oil yield advantage.
Second-generation Drought Tolerant corn continued to complement the first-generation trait, with strong performance in both water-stressed and broad-acre field testing, according to the company.
Monsanto’s Higher-Yielding corn advanced to Phase 2, with three of the company’s genetic events demonstrating a 5% to 10% yield increase.
Nitrogen Utilization corn technology events continued to demonstrate efficient use of nitrogen within testing environments, providing overall yield stability even as the amount of applied nitrogen decreased.
As excited as we are about the biotech pipeline, we understand that our success rides on the combination of biotechnology and breeding. We’ve put a lot of emphasis on making sure that—before we ever look to biotechnology—we have the best, highest yielding seed possible so farmers can start each season strong.—Robert T. Fraley, Ph.D., Monsanto chief technology officer and executive vice president
In 2006, the yield advantage in Monsanto’s national corn brands was reinforced through more than 49,000 corn breeding comparisons, which highlighted a record 11.7 bushels per acre advantage for Monsanto’s DEKALB brand in the widely planted 110-day corn.
In soybeans, Fraley also highlighted a strategy that combines strong, conventional soy breeding capabilities with breakthrough applications of molecular breeding to more efficiently identify characteristics that are important to growers.
Separately, Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute asserted that because of inadequate data collection on the number of new plants under construction, the quantity of grain that will be needed for fuel ethanol distilleries has been vastly understated.
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects that distilleries will require only 60 million tons of corn from the 2008 harvest. But here at the Earth Policy Institute (EPI), we estimate that distilleries will need 139 million tons—more than twice as much. If the EPI estimate is at all close to the mark, the emerging competition between cars and people for grain will likely drive world grain prices to levels never seen before. The key questions are: How high will grain prices rise? When will the crunch come? And what will be the worldwide effect of rising food prices?—Lester Brown
Monsanto presentation to Citigroup Chemical Conference