Monsanto Company and Dow AgroSciences LLC, a subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company, have reached new cross-licensing agreements for sharing technology to market new hybrid seed corn with advanced weed control and insect protection traits.

Monsanto is licensing the use of Dow AgroSciences’ new Enlist Weed Control System herbicide-tolerant trait for field corn, which is expected to be registered sometime during 2013. Dow AgroSciences is licensing to use Monsanto’s third generation corn rootworm technology, Corn Rootworm III, which is presently under development by Monsanto, for use in its corn hybrids when it is registered sometime before the end of the decade.

The agreement paves the way for introduction (pending regulatory approvals) of next-generation SmartStax seed corn products that build off the current SmartStax platform, which includes above and below ground insect resistance and herbicide-tolerance traits. SmartStax hybrids came about with a previous agreement between Dow AgroSciences and Monsanto.

Adding even more traits to SmatStax is important so that “we can address some of the issues that growers will face in the future, and this is a way to make sure the growers get the products they need with insect protection and weed conrol options,” said Ben Kaehler, Dow AgroSciences, U.S. seeds general manager.

He said Dow AgroSciences sees multiple modes of action as the best way to give good insect and weed resistance protection and to delay any resistance issues.

“The agreements build on the competitive standard set by SmartStax for stacked-trait corn offerings in providing added value for farmers in their ongoing need to secure higher yields despite wide-ranging pressures from damaging pests. This creates the opportunity to bring together for the first time three different modes of action for below-ground insect control in a corn product,” noted the news release announcing the new agreements. “Stacked trait products are particularly valuable for combating pest resistance and preserving trait durability.”

The news release went on to explain, “Weed resistance is also a challenge facing agriculture, and Enlist is a next-generation system that combines innovative traits providing tolerance to 2,4-D and FOPs, novel herbicides and stewardship, offering two modes of action for weed control to deliver performance that farmers need now. Monsanto is the first licensee of the Enlist trait in corn.” 

As currently sold, SmartStax corn includes Dow AgroSciences’ above- and below-ground insect resistance traits, Herculex I and Herculex RW, and the glufosinate herbicide tolerance trait to Bayer Crop Sciences’ LibertyLink herbicide; and Monsanto’s above-and below-ground insect resistance traits YieldGard VT Rootworm/RR2 and YieldGard VT PRO as well as Monsanto’s Roundup Ready glyphosate tolerance trait.

Kaehler explained that with approval of the Enlist Weed Control System, as anticipated, Dow AgroSciences’ brands of seed will offer SmartStax plus Enlist Technology for 2014 planting. The full next-generation SmartStax with the Enlist Technology and Monsanto Corn Rootworm III will likely not be available until the end of the decade.

“What we’ve seen is that the growers are picking the hybrids that have more technology in them. They are the fastest growing component of the marketplace. We see the demand being in that area, and that is where we focus some of our research efforts and bring out products to meet that demand,” Kaehler said.

“What we’ve decided to do instead of always trying to develop new products on our own is work with other technology providers in the industry. While we are paying a royalty back and forth to each other, we are avoiding some of the R&D costs that would have been involved to bring new products like this to the marketplace. We look for new products in our R&D pipeline, and we have a tremendous pipeline of products in the market, but that doesn’t mean we won’t look for other technologies that can complement ours and work together between technology providers. We do both things; we look to do it ourselves, and we look to collaborate with others,” Kaehler explained.

Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences highlighted in bullet point what the agreements include:

  • Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences will license to each other, under royalty-bearing agreements, traits for weed control as well as insect protection in corn. Specifically: 
    • Dow AgroSciences will license to Monsanto its proprietary Enlist corn herbicide-tolerant trait on a non-exclusive basis.  
    • Monsanto will license to Dow its third generation corn rootworm technology, Corn Rootworm III, on a non-exclusive basis.
  • The agreement paves the way for U.S. introduction (pending regulatory approvals) of new, next-generation SmartStax products by the end of the decade. 
  • Monsanto will represent both parties for joint third-party licensing of the next-generation SmartStax corn to third-party seed companies through its Corn States business, allowing farmers access to cutting edge technology in the brands they prefer. 
  • Dow AgroSciences will out-license the rights to the Enlist trait technology.  
  • Both parties will retain the right to independently stack additional trait technologies.