Monsanto is in the group of major seed companies that will have drought-tolerant corn planted in the fringe of the Western Corn Belt in 2012. Monsanto provided details about farmer field trials at a recent media conference in St. Louis.

“We’re not talking about being able to grow corn in a desert,” Dusty Post, corn crop technology lead, told reporters.

Real-world field planting followed by analysis of any yield enhancement will occur in 2012, if all goes as currently planned. Various U.S. regulatory approvals are required as a biotech crop moves through the process to be fully registered and before the biotech seed is widely sold.

Monsanto is expecting U.S. EPA approval for field trial work in 2012 and subsequent marketing approval, but the company will also want export approval by major importers of U.S. corn before releasing the seed widely.   

With regulatory approval, Monsanto’s farmer trials in 2012 will be limited to approximately 10,000 acres total on about 250 farms in the states of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Texas.

Not all drought-tolerant corn or corn that maximizes production from limited water being planted in 2012 will be biotech. Conventional breeding is being used in some cases by Monsanto competitors.

Positive results from Monsanto’s version of corn to produce more yield with less water could depend on when the water is limited during the corn’s growth stages, and as Post noted, the corn plants will need more water than much of Texas has received in 2011.

Another use for the corn could be limited irrigation. Less water might be needed to produce a reasonable yield, which is seen as more and more important as underground water is being depleted in situations such as the current Plains drought.

If weather projections are right, areas now growing corn could have higher temperatures, less rainfall and wide fluctuations in weather patterns. If this occurs, drought-tolerant corn could be extremely important to maintain and increase grain production around the world.

The 2012 harvested corn will have to stay out of the export channel and be used as livestock feed.    

This drought-tolerant corn is a portion of research and product development being done in collaboration with BASF Corporation.