Monsanto Company announced updates on advancements made across its research and development (R&D) pipeline over the past year. A record number of projects advanced phases across the company’s five R&D platforms: data science, plant breeding, plant biotechnology, crop protection and ag biologicals. This marks the fifth consecutive year that more than 20 projects advanced in the pipeline.
“Farmers’ abilities to meet global food and fiber needs will continue to be constrained by land and water availability, and complicated by climate change – so we need to grow more crops, but we need to do it using less water and less energy,” said Dr. Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s executive vice president and chief technology officer. “Our work contributes to each of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and many of the projects in our R&D pipeline reflect our commitment to climate-smart practices in modern agriculture. Farmers will continue to fight off drought, yield-robbing weeds, destructive insects, and plant diseases all while trying to optimize the opportunities uniquely embedded in their fields. And our researchers’ early adoption of data science innovations– especially artificial intelligence and machine learning – will help farmers accomplish their goals to the benefit of the environment and consumers.”
Monsanto’s R&D platforms support sustainable modern agriculture practices by delivering innovations that help farmers combat threats to their crops.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, as much as 40 percent of the world’s potential harvests are lost to damaging insects, weeds, and plant diseases each year.1 Over the past century, the crop protection toolbox has grown larger and more effective, while evolving to enable farmers to produce more with less of an impact on the environment.
Key Monsanto R&D pipeline projects designed to help farmers combat
- Lygus and Thrips Control Cotton technology, which is advancing to Phase 4, is designed to protect farmers’ cotton crops from damage caused by lygus, thrips and fleahopper bugs. This technology has the potential to be the first to control all three cotton pests, while potentially reducing the amount of insecticides farmers spray on their plants to do so.
- Trecepta technology, advancing to launch in 2018, which is designed to help farmers protect their corn plants from attacks by damaging insects including fall armyworm, corn earworm, corn borers and cutworms.
- NemaStrike technology, which is designed to protect corn, soybean and cotton crops from tiny parasitic worms called nematodes that attack plant roots and negatively impact harvests. Also aimed at controlling nematodes, the Soy BioNematicide product being developed by The BioAg Alliance with Novozymes uses soil microbes to combat nematodes and advances to Phase 3.
- The Climate Corporation’s disease diagnosis and identification technology, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to identify and diagnose diseases in corn, soybeans and wheat in real time to help farmers move quickly to protect their crops during the growing season. This technology advances from development to the pre-commercial phase.
- New formulations and combinations of proven weed killers in products like Harness Max Acetochlor Premix, advancing to launch in 2018, Next Gen Dicamba Premix (Phase 2) and Acetochlor + Dicamba + 3rd MOA Premix (Phase 1), which will eventually help farmers manage weeds that steal sunlight, water and nutrients from crops.
“On our family farm, we strive to use the products, technologies and information that allows us to be highly productive and efficient in growing crops in a sustainable way for the land and society. Understanding the interaction of these enables us to use the right products at the right time with confidence,” says Matt Helms, Monsanto’s global ag productivity technology lead. “Our R&D pipeline has a broad range of technologies. Some of these are more familiar such as next-generation herbicide premixes in new combinations, and others are breakthrough and novel such as on-seed soil microbes and artificial intelligence.”
Help Farmers Optimize Opportunities In Their Fields
In addition to anticipating and combatting threats to their crops, farmers seek to make the most of the land they cultivate. Each square foot of soil represents potential for a bountiful harvest, and Monsanto’s research – from placing soil microbes on seeds to improving a plant’s output through selective breeding – seeks to help farmers maximize that potential. R&D pipeline projects that take this approach include:
- Corn BioYield 2, expected to be branded Acceleron B-360 ST upon regulatory approvals, which uses soil microbes as a seed coating to increase a plant’s ability to take up nutrients. Produced by The BioAg Alliance, this project advances to Phase 4 based on another year of strong performance in the field.
- Monsanto’s High-Density Corn System, advancing to launch in 2018, which uses conventional breeding to help corn seeds thrive when placed closer to each other in the field. Farmers can use this closer spacing to maximize the number of plants in each field (called plant population), to make the most out of their sunlight, water, and soil
- Monsanto’s vegetable breeding program which provides growers with an average of over 125 new varieties across 20 produce crops each year, providing incremental improvements in agronomic performance, flavor profile, size, color, or shape. These annual breeding upgrades help Monsanto’s vegetable growers to be more successful with their customers in the produce value chain.
- The Climate Corporation’s advanced seed scripting tools which enable farmers to combine multiple data sets – the farmer’s unique field data, combined with weather, soil and field research data – to deliver seed planting prescriptions that are tailored to specific genetics and their unique yield goals.
“Optimizing opportunity each year begins with getting seeds off to a strong start,” said Dr. Shannon Hauf, Monsanto’s global cotton, wheat and specialty crops lead, who grew up on her family’s farm. “Continued innovations in modern agriculture will advance the use of microbial seed coatings to give those plants an early boost and maximize plant populations with the latest hybrids – all while using data science to place those seeds in the optimum location for maximum growth potential.”
Enable Farmers To Use Natural Resources More Efficiently And Apply Farm Inputs
Farmers are dedicated to soil, water, and energy conservation within their operations. In today’s changing climate, farmers continue to come up with innovative approaches to conserve nature’s resources, all while applying other inputs like seed, pesticides, and fertilizer more precisely. As they do so, modern agriculture is working to provide them with the tools necessary to do the job.
Key R&D pipeline projects to help farmers use resources more efficiently and apply farm inputs precisely include:
- The Climate Corporation’s nitrogen management technology which uses a combination of data sources to help farmers decide when and how much nitrogen to apply in order to help their crops thrive and reduce overuse, which can lead to runoff. Further, The Climate Corporation’s HydroBio irrigation management platform and advanced irrigation research analyzes crop irrigation data so farmers can more efficiently manage water use.
- Advancements in herbicide-tolerant systems like Fourth Generation Herbicide Tolerant Cotton (advancing to Phase 2) which are expected to further enable no-till and conservation-tillage farming, preserving the top layer of the soil and limiting its runoff into streams, rivers and lakes. Untilled soil stores carbon that’s been absorbed through crops and plant materials and keeps it from the air.
- In addition to Trecepta technology, incremental advancements in insect-resistant systems – like Fourth Generation Above-Ground Insect Protection for Corn (advancing to Phase 3) – that can help reduce the number of pesticide applications farmers must apply, saving fuel and reducing carbon emissions with fewer passes over the field.
“Data-driven innovation is about more than producing higher yields,” says Dr. Sam Eathington, chief science officer for the Climate Corporation. “It’s also about helping farmers manage critical inputs like seed, fertilizer and water so they can get the most out of every acre in a more sustainable way.”
Monsanto’s Scientists Embrace Data Innovations – Including Artificial Intelligence And Machine Learning – For The Benefit Of Our Farmer Customers And Consumers
The world of agriculture is being transformed by data science, from algorithms and analytics to deep learning and artificial intelligence. In the face of climate change, advancements in these areas are helping farmers grow the food we need while using natural resources more efficiently.
“Monsanto’s plant breeders, climate scientists and soil microbiologists were among the industry’s earliest adopters of data science, artificial intelligence and machine learning – and for good reason,” says Anju Gupta, Monsanto’s information technology partnerships and outreach lead. “In the years I spent as a plant breeder and quantitative geneticist, my teams used predictive analytics to help us decide which products to advance, which ultimately led us to knowing the potential of every seed before it was even planted. In much the same way, our vegetable research team is developing modeling tools that predict the flavor performance of our products in crops such as tomato, and our soil microbials team relies on analytics to evaluate hundreds of thousands of strains each year.”