Farmers saw a series of “firsts” at the Monsanto “Yields of Tomorrow” tour at the 2009 Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Ill., today. I had the pleasure of viewing some of the new technology first hand.
Along with the rest of my tour group, I got a behind-the-scenes look at how Monsanto uses molecular information and marker-assisted breeding and backcrossing to pinpoint the best possible features in seeds to be used for future seeds and traits at the “Monsanto Lab.” In fact, we saw the sequencing of a Monsanto soybean genome line. Monsanto also revealed its Corn Chipper for the first time to the public. The chipper slices a small part of a corn seed for genetic analysis, but the seed is still able to be planted.
Growers also viewed two prototype planters.
The Gen V planter allows Monsanto researchers to organize and precisely manage seed and information for field trials. The cool thing about the planter was how it evaluates various populations of hybrids at 20- and 30-inch rows at every replicated trial site. Controlled by GPS, the Gen V allows Monsanto to plant more than 35,000 plots in one season! The replication of the trials in various planting populations allows researchers to gather the most complete information about the best seeding rate for various areas.
Another experimental planter, developed with combined research efforts of agronomists, engineers and computer scientists, allows Monsanto researchers to vary population seeding rate, row by row, based on soil and yield maps. This type of planter would increase the probability of a farmer increasing his yield across all acres.
We also saw Monsanto’s advances in breeding, biotech and agronomics—the three pillars of Monsanto’s goal to double yields in the core crops of corn, soybeans and cotton by 2030.