Fiscal first-quarter results reveal company expanding innovations
Investors and journalists seldom miss the opportunity to listen in on Monsanto Company's annual pipeline updates. The company’s biotech pipeline has been building over the past few years thanks in part to increasing collaborations with technology partner BASF Plant Science.
During the Jan. 4 announcement, Robb Fraley, Monsanto chief technology officer, announced a record year for developments. In total, 14 projects were launched or advanced to new levels. See Monsanto's 2012 pipeline
"Through the convergence of innovations in our breeding, biotechnology and agronomic solutions platforms, we’re focused on providing farmers the total package that can maximize their yields sustainably," said Fraley. Progress and advancement was reported in every platform and across each major crop area.
"Farmers buy yield and that’s where we are focused," Fraley added.
The biggest buzz was revealed in the biotechnology platform. Fraley said Monsanto’s latest efforts in corn rootworm control will go beyond traditional Bt proteins and utilize RNA interference (RNAi) to provide a second mode of action. RNAi technology is a natural process cells use to turn down, or suppress the activity of specific genes.
Fraley reported this new technology would be integrated into the SmartStax platform. Growers in western corn rootworm hotspots who have experienced some Cry protein performance issues should welcome this news.
Monsanto recently revealed Monsanto has received deregulation from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for MON 87460, the company’s first-generation drought-tolerant trait for corn. To date, drought resistance has come from traditional plant breeding and native genes. Drought-tolerant corn is projected to be introduced as part of an overall system that combines improved genetics, agronomic practices and the genetically engineered drought trait.
Other advances include second-generation insect protected soybeans aimed at the South American market; Genuity Bollgard III cotton with multiple modes of action against a variety of insects and a cotton lygus control product which would extend in-seed control to the piercing-sucking lygus bug. Yield and stress trait advances occurring in collaboration with BASF include a higher-yielding corn trait that will be stacked on top of Genuity corn products and drought-tolerant cotton.
Next-generation Genuity Roundup Ready Canola also moves to a pre-launch phase. This second generation weed control product offers an extended application window up to first flower and the opportunity to apply glyphosate at higher rates.
Fraley also stressed what Monsanto is calling Integrated Farming Systems I aimed at offering on-farm systems recommendations has progressed to the final phase before commercialization. "Recommendations would be delivered through tools that complement and integrate with other precision agriculture technology in a prescriptive way," Fraley said. "This project would tie hybrid recommendations to soil and environment based yield potential enabling variable-rate planting to help drive potential yields further."
Fiscal first-quarter financial results were also optimistic. Company executives reported "game changing" sales growth and trade expansion of corn and soybean seed in Latin America and cotton seed in Australia.
Monsanto Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant said 2011 yield performance in the U.S. have encouraged U.S. farmers to invest heavily in the company’s 2012 seed platforms. "Orders are head of 2011 and we are in growth mode," said Grant.
He noted strong response to reduced refuge (RIB) corn products and projects RIB hybrids will be planted on 22 to 24 million acres in 2012. Monsanto is projecting Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans acreage for 2012 at 27 to 30 million acres—a 10 million acre step up from FY2011F.
Materials relating to the earnings call, which includes the entire annual pipeline update may be accessed by visiting the investor section of Monsanto’s website at www.monsanto.com/investors