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Monsanto: Breeding and Biotech Research Complements Push to Biofuels

Monsanto is focused on three crops for biofuels: corn, rapeseed and soybeans. Click to enlarge.

Monsanto’s corn and oilseeds breeding and biotech are complementary to the overall push to biofuels, according to Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President Robb Fraley.

In an investor presentation providing an update on the company’s research, Fraley said that Monsanto’s focus is on improving the yield-per-acre potential of crops as well as for ways to enhance the value of those crops.

Increased ethanol yield with Producer Preferred HFC

Monsanto’s breeders have already identified high fermentable corn (HFC) hybrids that yield more ethanol per bushel.

The average yield for a conventional dry mill is 2.8 gallons of ethanol for every bushel of corn. Large-scale commercial trials of HFC demonstrated an average increase in yield of 2.7%. These hybrids are sold with the company’s trait technologies which help protect yield, and ultimately the plant’s ethanol output.

A Monsanto joint-venture with Cargill—Renessen—is working on a combination of biotech, breeding and processing projects designed to increase the nutrient value of the animal feed co-product stream from ethanol. (Earlier post.)

Other highlights from mid-season test results from Monsanto’s winter production field trials in Latin America as well as new analyses of research data include:

  • Drmon
    Current drought map. Click to enlarge.
    Drought-tolerant corn, one of Monsanto’s next-generation agronomic technologies and one of the company’s high-impact technologies—HIT projects—is showing yield advantages compared with its conventional counterpart for a third-consecutive season. This technology is currently in Phase 2 of the research pipeline.

    According to the Drought Monitor at the University of Nebraska, some 60% of the US is currently experiencing abnormally dry or drought conditions.

  • Nitrogen-utilization corn technology may provide farmers with a new way to boost yield in both normal- and limited-nitrogen usage settings. This technology is currently in Phase 1 of the research pipeline.

  • Dicamba-tolerant soybeans, Monsanto’s third-generation herbicide-tolerant technology, may provide farmers with tolerance in both pre- and post-emergent settings, as well as increase the flexibility of herbicide applications. This technology is currently in Phase 2 of the research pipeline.

  • Insect-protected soybeans, the company’s first insect-protection technology for oilseeds, are demonstrating yield advantages compared with its conventional counterpart in both mild and moderate insect infestations. This technology, which is currently in Phase 2 of the research pipeline, is intended to be commercialized with the company’s Roundup RReady2Yield technology, leading to a new stacked product in soybeans.




This is some of the greatest research I have found about biofuel and improving the way we live and drive.


sorry, but without reading ANY of this, i'm going to mod this down. why? because these guys are monsanto. they are the ones that made pesticides, told us they were safe, and then seeing that the business won't hold up much longer, moved into the GMO market. now they are telling us that GMOs are safe. these are the guys that gave us such wonderful commodities as saccharin, NutraSweet, Agent Orange, bovine growth hormone (BST), and PCBs.
i call BS.
remember when DDT was good for meeeeee? Yeah.


Bio-engineering our crops to make ethanol to burn in our cars, instead of food to put in our bellies in total nonsense! We (they) are treading in dangerous territory.

Biofuel will only make minimal sense when we harvest a naturally growing plant, not a created plant that must be cultivated and cared for! But thats our powerful farm lobbies at work.

Mark A

Bio-engineering our crops to make ethanol to burn in our cars, instead of food to put in our bellies in total nonsense! We (they) are treading in dangerous territory.

Biofuel will only make minimal sense when we harvest a naturally growing plant, not a created plant that must be cultivated and cared for! But thats our powerful farm lobbies at work.

allen Z

As for corn to ethanol, it would be better to use sweet sorghum. It uses less water, has a better energy balance, has higher yields (ga/acre), and stands up to hotter and drier conditions better. The nitrogen could be fixed by rotating legume crops with it.


GMOs are primarily a vehicle for companies like Monsanto to own the patents to seeds that grown crops that feed our bellies and fuel our cars. It is a way for these companies to further monopolize both the food and fuel sectors. Once we become independent of the middle east, who will make us independent of Monsanto.

No doubt, Monsanto will find a way to monopolize the patents to those genes for sweet sorghum if they feel that has profit potential.

Proprietary technology that allows corporations to dominiate the agricultural sector, which is their goal, should be taken out of the hands of private companies and put in the public domain. The hold that companies like Monsanto have over farmers is just another form of slavery.


I live in an area with many farms. I have friends that cultivate both corn and soybeans. I, myself, am a project manager for a small biodiesel plant.

First of all, farmers have a choice in what type seed they purchase and from where they purchase them. They are by no means locked into or controlled by a particular company. They usually choose to purchase GM seeds, at a higher price, because the plants perform so much better than non-gm plants. The plants are usually higher yield and more restistant to certain insects which causes a decrease in pesticide being sprayed. This is in turn has the added benefit of lowering the overall cost of production for the farmer even though he paid a higher price up front for the seeds.

By the way, did you know humans have been genetically modifying plants since we first domesticated wheat and corn way back in ancient times. The ancients used selective breeding to amplify traits such as high yield and insect restistance. It's amazing that over thousands of years they were able to increase the yield of these crops by orders of magnitude.

In modern days, after discovering the gene, we are at the initial stages of being able to harness its power. Instead of having to wait many years selectively breading good traits in a plants and taking out the bad, we now have the oportunity to simply insert the good traits (genes) using genetic engineering. We get to do in a year what the ancients accomplished over centuries.

If we want to make a dent in foreign oil imports and grow closer to sustainability, we need to use every modern tool available to increase the yeilds of these plants while making their cultivation more economical. That's a win-win in my book. And it's not just Monsanto that can help us improve these crops. There happens to be a free market out there with the fundamental science available to everyone. If you want to help, get out there and create something. :)

Mark A

I applaud all the efforts to create bio-fuels, with re-engineering plants. The geneticists are doing amazing work. But we need to be careful in these efforts. Mother nature has allowed these plants to evolve naturally through natural selection. Like an old TV commercial said, "Its not nice to fool mother nature".

And also off on a tangent, we are not solving much of our problems by resorting to growing our fuels, instead of pumping them out of the ground. Unfavorable weather conditions at the wrong time in a growing season, would spell disaster for ethanol supplies. Also keep in mind that these plants cannot be grown under snow, cutting the growing season each year in half.

A "Popular Mechanics" story a couple of months back, on ethanol growth, crunched some realistic numbers for ethanol. To create a nationwide E85 supply, which is what everyone is wanting, something like 70% of our entire available land left suitable for cultivation must be planted to make ethanol. That is a much larger amount of land than is currently "in cultivation"! Of course efficiencies will increase to cut that number down, but growth would cancel that. That then leaves 30% for food production and for biodiesel (of which many want to increase also!). Does anyone else see a problem with being able to cheaply feed ourselves? Food versus ethanol versus biodiesel in the short term future?

Obviously I dont have any answers to our problems, or else I would have more money than Bill Gates. Conservation, a lower national speed limit, increased battery development, more walking and bicycling would all help. But how far are we willing to sacrifice to make a difference?


On the issue of available land - I agree, we don't have enough land to grow all of our fuel. That's been pretty much proven. And nationwide E85 would be closs to impossible. Let's shoot for E5 or E10. Same with biodiesel, B5 or B10. These are actully very large steps considering the total volume of gas and diesel consumed.


one thing – for centuries, we haven't been able to breed corn with fish, horses, or bacteria. GMO allows us, and has been doing, this.
so the argument doesn't hold up.


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