Monsanto tests planting platform, eyes new business

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Monsanto Co, the world's largest seed company, is developing two new platforms that diverge from its core business and are seen as potential key long-term growth drivers, according to top Monsanto executives.

"What we are building right now is based on the strength of our germplasm and our breeding. That is the key engine," said Monsanto Chief Financial Officer Pierre Courduroux in an interview. "When you get to the next layers of growth, that is where you'll start getting into those new platforms we're building. We are putting the base in place so that it is the next layer of growth."

The first platform, a precision planting product called "FieldScripts," is being rolled out for beta testing this year to more than 150 farmers in the U.S. Midwest.

FieldScripts will be sold alongside Monsanto seed products at dealers and is based on soil data, slope, organic matter and other information gathered from individual farmer fields.

The data is translated to an individualized prescription for the farmer that recommends what type of seed, what density and spacing a farmer should use. Lower seeding rates might be used in parts of one field and higher rates suggested in another based on the data gathered.

Certain equipment will be required to implement the product, but farmers should see a gain of 5-10 bushels per acre, said Pam Strifler, Monsanto's vice president of integrated farming systems.

The company is still not sure how it will price the product or license it to rivals as it does its seed technology, but has high hopes for commercialization in the next two to three years and strong long-term growth.

The second new platform seen as having high potential involves new biological research. Monsanto's "biodirect" research is aimed at developing products that use molecules found in nature as topical applications for crop protection.

The company is accelerating work to screen and test micro-organisms to find ways to use the bacteria and fungi to optimize the performance of crops and protect them from weeds and pests.

"It is an interesting time in the company as we look at some of these new opportunities," said Monsanto Chairman Hugh Grant.

Biologicals are used to complement or replace agricultural chemical products and represent a growing market segment of roughly $1.7 billion in annual sales, according to Monsanto.

The core business of providing seeds and chemicals to farmers remains the top priority as Monsanto see increasingly strong growth internationally, said Grant. Latin America is seeing fast expansion, and Eastern Europe holds particular future appeal, as do areas in seeds business.

"That is a big change for us," said Grant. "We've seen a business movement from really domestically based to more and more ... a global business."

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Texas  |  May, 21, 2013 at 10:09 AM

Farmers don't need to buy products that add micro-organisms to the soil. All they have to do is stop destroying the organisms that are already in their soil. To accomplish that, they merely need to stop tilling the soil year after year. Annual tillage keeps bacteria and fungi from establishing stable populations in the soil. With continuous no-till, adding cover crops between your cash crops, you can establish a strong biological community in the soil. With that, soil organic matter will increase, soil structure will improve, nutrient cycling will improve, and water holding capacity will improve. You can add all the micro-organisms you want, but if you till year after year, you will kill them. And so you will have to add more the next year, which is exactly Monsanto's business plan.

May, 21, 2013 at 05:04 PM

They are the makers of Roundup! they thrive off of no-till

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