Monsanto Co. announced 2017 updates on progress made across its research and development (R&D) pipeline over the past year. The company’s commitment to this annual pipeline showcase is founded in a dedication to innovations that support farmers as they work to meet the needs of society while using natural resources more efficiently. The company’s industry-leading pipeline integrates seeds, traits, crop protection and data science to support growers by mitigating challenges posed by weeds, insects, diseases and environmental shifts resulting from climate change each season.
“The role that agriculture plays in our daily lives has never been more critical – including meeting the world’s growing needs and driving on-farm practices that preserve biodiversity and our natural resources like soil and water,” said Robert Fraley, Ph.D., Monsanto’s chief technology officer. “Science is helping us identify new solutions to help farmers and this marks a record year for our R&D pipeline – with 14 projects advancing to launch and the first unveiling for more than 35 projects in the Climate pipeline. These advancements demonstrate how we’re delivering new ways that farmers can manage the 40+ key decisions they must make throughout the growing season to enable a successful harvest. Going forward, we believe we have a greater opportunity to accelerate innovation, optimize integrated solutions and expand offerings through our combination with Bayer – translating to significant benefits for farmers around the world.”
Monsanto’s R&D platforms span five areas of agricultural technology: data science, plant breeding, plant biotechnology, crop protection and ag biologicals. These platforms support sustainable agriculture practices by delivering solutions that:
1. Reduce the footprint of global ag production through better harvests:
The world’s current agriculture production footprint is under continuous pressure from expanding urban populations and environmental challenges. This means that farmers must identify ways to reduce impact on our natural resources while delivering food for society on existing farm land. Better harvests mean that additional land does not need to be brought into production – an action that can help further stem the release of greenhouse gases into the environment and protect existing forest land. The 2017 R&D highlights include:
- The BioAg Alliance, a partnership between Monsanto and Novozymes that focuses on microbial solutions, continues to grow the depth and breadth of its pipeline. The Alliance’s BioYield platform is an example of this growth through expansion to new crops and development of next-generation projects that are designed to help improve yield potential by helping crops use nutrients in the soil more efficiently.
- The Climate FieldView™ platform allows farmers to collect and analyze field data from multiple sources – including the soil, field and atmosphere – and provides valuable insights to help farmers get the most out of every acre. The platform continues to evolve research efforts to develop new digital tools, including insights that help farmers make more informed decisions about crop nutrition and fertility, as well as which seed and planting approaches will help enable a more productive harvest each year. The Climate FieldView™ platform continues to be the most widely adopted digital ag platform in the industry.
- Higher-Yielding Corn, a family of corn plants with traits for increased yield potential, is also advancing in the pipeline. This project is part of the company’s Yield & Stress research collaboration with BASF.
2. Protect harvests from increasing threats:
Every growing season farmers work to mitigate pressures from insects, weeds, diseases and environmental variables that can result in food loss in the field and after harvest. The effects of climate change can further exacerbate these pressures. The 2017 R&D highlights include:
- Broad, integrated solutions to address yield-limiting diseases, for example:
- A package of insights to identify and predict disease vulnerability and diagnose key crop diseases are planned to be added to Climate FieldView™ offerings.
- Breeding research that aims to curb the effects of disease on both vegetables and row crops, including Downy Mildew-Resistant Lettuce and the DEKALB ® Disease Shield TMcorn hybrids platform.
- Through a collaboration with Bayer, Acceleron ® Seed Applied Solutions – Enhanced Disease Control, is aimed at managing disease infections during key stages of the growing season.
- Next-generation insect and weed control technologies – including Bollgard ® 3 XtendFlex ®Cotton and Fourth-Generation Herbicide-Tolerant Corn, respectively – are poised to offer farmers new ways to mitigate challenges from damaging pests and weeds. Herbicide-tolerant technologies help enable greater flexibility in weed management, including allowing farmers the ability to adopt and maintain conservation tillage practices which helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
3. Deliver continuous improvement to global ag production:
As agriculture producers work to deliver better harvests on existing farmland and protect crops, the entire sector must continue to improve on-farm solutions and the practices used within global ag production. Monsanto R&D focuses on achieving this through next-generation products that improve upon platforms that are already impactful for growers, and through novel solutions. The 2017 R&D highlights include:
- Research to promote the health of honey bees, which are critically important pollinators for our food system. Honey bee hives are routinely impacted by the Varroa mite – a threat which introduces viruses into the bee’s home and greatly reduces their numbers and productivity. Research underway at Monsanto, called BioDirect TM Technology: Bee Health Varroa Control, represents an innovative biological approach to target this devastating threat to bees.
- To help more of the world’s farmers increase productivity with digital tools, the company plans to continue to grow the Climate FieldView™ platform geographically, with expansion expected in the U.S., Brazil and Canada this year – and Europe, South Africa, Australia and Argentina over the next few years.
- Continued development of NemaStrike TM Technology, a novel seed-applied nematode-control solution, has demonstrated the ability to control pressure from multiple nematode species. Nematodes are one of the largest pest challenges in agriculture.
Monsanto, Bayer Combination Offers New Opportunities to Expand Innovation & Insights for Farmers
As part of today’s announcement, Monsanto highlighted how its proposed combination with Bayer will help create a leading global agriculture company that would:
- Accelerate innovation for farmers around the world: Monsanto outlined how the combination could help bring new insights in R&D – from discovery phase through commercialization – and open up new opportunities for parallel development of key projects across its R&D platforms. These advancements could facilitate better joint testing, prioritization and integration, and enable faster development and delivery of products for farmers.
- Deliver new, optimized integrated solutions to support the future of agriculture: Monsanto showcased how the combined portfolio of the companies could help farmers identify more precise ways to manage complex challenges on farm, such as plant disease. Integrated development of seed, chemistry, and data science tools to optimize timing, placement, and combinations of solutions will contribute to improved productivity and resistance management for growers.
- Expand offerings to benefit farmers globally: The combination could expand the ability to discover new solutions for under-served crops, such as wheat, or to expand more broadly into emerging geographies like Asia and Africa. It offers a new way to explore R&D and drive new insights across how seed, crop protection and data science products are utilized in certain geographies and in the face of increasingly variable environmental conditions. These advancements could help farmers better understand the best seed offerings and chemistry solutions to optimize profitability and productivity.