The role of the farmer has never been more important. In the coming decades, agriculture’s ability to meet the demands of our growing global population in an increasingly sustainable way will be vitally important. Farmers will have to grow more on existing farmland and effectively mitigate challenges from weather and threats – such as bugs, weeds and resource scarcity. Innovation will be central to helping farmers do more with less, and manage the challenges that prevent food and crops from making it to harvest.
Monsanto Company’s investment in a wide range of agriculture solutions is helping farmers better address the core challenges they face on farm and to continue to increase the amount of food and crops they’re able to produce.
The company showcased a range of new developments as part of its annual research and development update -- highlighting its commitment to deliver sustainable agriculture solutions that help farmers have better harvests and make a balanced meal more accessible for everyone.
“Farmers around the world will be responsible for providing a balanced plate for more than 9 billion people by 2050. To do it, we will need to effectively double the food supply,” said Robert Fraley, Ph.D., Monsanto’s chief technology officer. “Science and innovation play an important role in meeting this challenge, and Monsanto’s R&D platforms, related pipeline advancements and collaboration with other experts are critical to meeting the future needs of our population.”
Monsanto, which is broadly known for its work in plant biotechnology or GMO crops, has five additional R&D platforms focused on delivering better products to farmers -- plant breeding, crop protection, microbials, BioDirect and The Climate Corporation.
Core R&D Platforms Set Foundation
By utilizing advancements in plant breeding, plant biotechnology and crop protection, Monsanto’s core R&D platforms are poised to offer farmers novel ways to reduce crop loss due to plant disease, insect infestations and reduced water availability. These improvements are designed to help farmers get more harvest from the same footprint of land while using fewer resources. Some of the company’s innovations showcased included ways for farmers to:
- Mitigate disease challenges on farm.
- Gray Leaf Spot disease affects more than half of the farmland growing corn in the United States, and can result in harvest reductions as high as 30 percent. Through innovation in breeding, Monsanto’s launch of Corn Gray Leaf Spot Resistance will offer farmers more options to manage plant disease. The 2014 R&D trials demonstrated a greater than 30 bushel per acre advantage in low-to-high disease pressure environments.
- Through innovation in plant breeding, Monsanto is launching a disease-resistant pepper that offers the potential to drastically reduce loss in the field. In R&D trials, Phytophthora-Resistant Peppers demonstrated a more than 80 percent increase in harvest potential under field conditions that are common in many parts of the world. This represents real value to consumers and farmers by helping deliver more peppers from farm to table, and it represents an important new tool for the environment because local farming can return to areas previously decimated by this disease.
- Bring more to harvest on the same footprint of land.
- Managing insects is a key factor in ensuring the best possible harvest. Monsanto showcased four next-generation insect-control technologies – SmartStax PRO, third-generation above-ground protection corn, second-generation insect-protection soybeans and Bollgard III – that the company anticipates introducing to farmers near the end of the decade.
- With an integrated R&D platform approach, solutions to more effectively manage insects go beyond biotechnology. Monsanto continues to innovate with a recently advanced seed treatment that demonstrates broad-spectrum control of nematode pests in corn, cotton, soybeans and vegetables. The company’s 2014 R&D trials demonstrated a yield advantage of 6 bushels per acre in corn and an advantage of 2 bushels per acre in soybeans, when compared to the competitive standard.
- Weeds rob crops of valuable water, nutrients and sunlight. The company continues to make progress towards a limited introduction of Bollgard II XtendFlex™ cotton, with the USDA’s recent recommendation for deregulation. These cotton varieties will offer industry-leading insect protection through the Bollgard II trait with the new XtendFlex traits offering farmers the flexibility in herbicide applications to best fit the weed pressures they face.
- Helping mitigate the impact of weather on crop yield is an important aspect of sustainable agriculture. The effects of drought can devastate a farmer’s harvest. The company today highlighted Genuity DroughtGard Hybrids with SmartStax PRO corn, a drought-resistant product designed for broad use. This product, which is a part of the company’s collaboration with BASF Plant Science, will help farmers better manage crops in hot and dry conditions by using water more efficiently.
- Better manage the planet’s natural resources and the effects of climate change.
New Platforms Offer Potential for Breakthrough Solutions
The company’s newest technology platforms focus on delivering innovations for agriculture that help increase the amount of crops that make it to harvest and further support the efficient use of natural resources. Driven by advancements in data science and increased knowledge of plant biology and soil microbiology, The BioAg Alliance, BioDirect and The Climate Corporation offer new approaches for farmers to support sustainable agriculture. Whether it is through the seamless connectivity of an app for farmers to more efficiently manage a field, or advances in soil health management, Monsanto’s growth platforms offer solutions for an integrated management system that helps farmers sustainably produce more food per acre.
“A farmer will make 40 to 50 key decisions every year on how to manage their crop. With upgrades to the Climate Basic and Climate Pro apps, we can help better inform many of those decisions helping farmers improve harvests and reduce natural resource use,” said Fraley. “The value of an integrated system becomes clear when you pair the efficiencies of precision agriculture with the exciting results we’re seeing through The BioAg Alliance.”
New platform innovations showcased today included ways for farmers to:
- Bring more food to harvest.
- The BioDirect platform focuses on developing new tools to target plant disease, insect and weed control and improvements to bee health. This year marks the first Phase 2 advancement for the BioDirect platform, with the BioDirect Insect Control Colorado Potato Beetle project.
- Information technology advances from The Climate Corporation offer farmers the power of precision agriculture in the palm of their hand. Software and connectivity enhancements across the Climate Basic and Climate Pro apps offer a more user-friendly interface and offer farmers seamless connectivity.
- Better manage the planet’s natural resources.
- Upgrades to The Climate Corporation’s Nitrogen Advisor tool for corn growers will incorporate a new soil hydration model and soil temperature simulator to offer farmers more effective tracking and management of field nitrogen levels.
- With the industry’s most advanced microbials platform focused on improving soil health and harvest through naturally occurring microorganisms, the first full year results from The BioAg Alliance, a collaboration between Monsanto and Novozymes, are robust. Of the top 10 microbe strains tested in corn and soybeans, average yield increases were 4 bushels and 2 bushels, respectively.
For more information on Monsanto’s complete research and development pipeline, visit www.monsanto.com/pipeline. Monsanto also announced the company’s financial results for its fiscal 2015 first quarter, which included an update of projects within the company’s R&D pipeline.