No need to get all hot and bothered just this very instant, but the reality of drought-tolerant crops may be closer than you think.
Monsanto announced today that it has made major strides toward delivering the world's first-ever drought-tolerant corn product to farmers.
In the fourth-annual update of its Research and Development (R&D) pipeline, the company announced that corn that sips water has moved into the fourth and final phase of development. The company has submitted the product to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for regulatory clearance—the first move in a sometimes tedious regulatory process that can take up to three years. Monsanto statistics show Stage 4 pipeline products have a 90% average probability of making it to commercial launch.
Drought-tolerant corn is designed to provide yield stability during periods when water supply is scarce by mitigating the effects of drought—or water stress—within a corn plant. Monsanto field trials for drought-tolerant corn conducted last year in the Western Great Plains showed a 7 to 10 bu./acre increase over varieties without the transgenic drought-tolerant qualities.
Steve Padgette, biotechnology lead for Monsanto, says this is the fastest a product has advanced from one phase of the company's R&D to another. Drought-tolerant corn moved from Phase 3 to Phase 4 (the last phase before product launch) in one year.
"We are now intensively selecting the best trait-germplasm combinations to deliver excellent drought-stress performance, and value, to our customers upon launch. This product and other yield improvements we are developing will reset the bar for on-farm productivity.”
Padgette says the company plans to deliver drought-tolerance in other crop technologies over the next decade. The technology is one of the products currently under development as part of Monsanto's R&D and commercialization collaboration in plant biotechnology with German-based BASF. The two companies are jointly contributing $1.5 billion over the life of the collaboration, which is aimed at developing high-yielding crops and crops more tolerant to adverse environmental conditions such as drought.
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You could see another bump in soybean yields coming too. "Intrinsic Yield” soybean technology promises higher yields through the insertion of a key gene and will be stacked on top of the new Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybean (RR2Y). It is also part of the collaboration with BASF and has moved into Phase 3 and will undergo expanded field trials, regulatory studies and trait integration into elite soybean germplasm over the next few years. Phase 3 generally takes 12 to 24 months before advancing and have has a 75% average probability of successs.
Monsanto's SmartStax corn containing multiple modes of action for insect management of above and below-ground insects and weed control has moved into Phase 4, the final step prior to product launch—expected commercialization is 2010.
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