U.S. Seeds, Traits Drive Monsanto’s Sales Momentum

January 13, 2013 03:09 AM

Monsanto reports it will launch a major new technology in the agricultural marketplace every year through the end of this decade.

Earlier this week the Monsanto Company announced it is advancing a record number of projects, 18 total, in its research and development platforms going into 2013, according to Rob Fraley, executive vice president and chief technology officer for the company.

"We are positioned to launch a major new technology effectively every year through the end of this decade," Fraley reported during Monsanto's annual research and development update Web conference.

This year the company is formally launching its DroughtGard technology in corn. Fraley says the initial opportunity for this product line is focused in the western Corn Belt, on the approximately 10 million crop acres that extend from the Dakotas to Kansas where dry conditions are expected most years.

"This provides an important validation point as along with BASF we’re launching the first product out of our yield and stress collaboration," Fraley says.

He notes that Monsanto will continue to leverage its work with BASF to discover and advance more leads to address yield-limiting factors.

"We’ve also seen promising results in corn, stacking multiple yield genes into a combined package," Fraley says. "I think this multi-gene approach to increasing yields is likely to become more prominent in the corn and soybean pipelines of the future."

He says companies that are successful in the next decade will need to have more than one or two component technologies to remain competitive in the competitive agricultural marketplace.

"Leaders will bring together multiple technologies in the seed, the plant and in the field," he says.

Pre-launch phase. For 2013, Monsanto has three projects in its on-farm testing program. Called Ground Breakers, the program involves a group of select farmers who provide on-farm testing of the company’s products to help set the stage for successful commercial introductions.

The three projects in on-farm testing include Intacta RR2 Pro soybeans in Brazil. In the United States farmers will test FieldScripts, which is part of the company’s new Integrated Farming Systems (IFS) program, and the Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybean trait platform.

Fraley says Roundup Ready 2 Xtend provides dicamba tolerance on top of the company’s Roundup Ready 2 Yield platform.

"The formulation piece is key as our testing of the new low-volatility, dicamba-glyphosate premix is showing strong efficacy and residual activity," Fraley reports.

"Pair that with large-scale tests that indicate our new formulation shows excellent results managing drift, and effectively we’re building an improved weed control system," he says.

Fraley adds that Intacta RR2 Pro and Roundup Ready 2Xtend are considered 100-million-acre global opportunities for the company.

Specific to the Integrated Farming Systems program, Fraley says it will help drive incremental yield increases for farmers. FieldScripts is Monsanto Company’s first product to come from the IFS platform.

"With our investment in genomics we’re now able to correlate genetics to different fields, soils and geographical compositions, giving us the ability to position hybrids with a higher degree of probability than has ever occurred in the industry," he says.

Fraley expects to see a commercial launch of FieldScripts in the Monsanto Dekalb brand in 2014 in parts of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota.

Fiscally fit. Hugh Grant, chairman and chief executive officer says Monsanto achieved strong first quarter results, with significant contribution from the corn seed and traits business, led by the corn opportunity acceleration in Latin America and strong shipments in the United States reflective of a positive order book.

"Our products really distinguished themselves despite the drought, and our portfolio is ahead of where we were at this point in the first quarter last year," Grant says.

Sales for Monsanto's seeds and genomics segment increased 14 percent in the first quarter to $1.8 billion, with corn seed and traits performance driving the first quarter strength.

The seeds and genomics segment consists of the company's global seeds and related traits business.

For 2013, the company chief executive predicts farmers will plant 96 million acres of corn in the United States. Grant says the company based the projection on early orders farmers have placed to date. Seed orders were exceptionally early, he notes, as farmers were proactive in hopes of securing their first pick of premium quality corn hybrids.


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