By Dr. Robb Fraley
Chief Technology Officer
Mother Nature is always changing, and those changes often threaten the crops that we depend on for food and clothing. Whether it’s migrating insects, new strains of diseases, or a changing climate, our crops are constantly under siege from new and changing dangers.
What do we do about it? We do what mankind has always done: we improve and we innovate to overcome challenges and improve our effectiveness.
Monsanto’s innovation pipeline is an ongoing example of innovation in agriculture. To effectively meet the needs of the farmers who keep food on our tables, we’re constantly working to predict the future, to identify new and emerging challenges that might threaten crops in five, 10 or even 20 years.
Our researchers look far ahead to determine what will be the biggest threats for farmers, then set out to develop potential solutions through breeding, biotechnology and improved agronomics. These tools help us drive crop productivity while using resources more efficiently.
Solutions progress through our pipeline on a steady pace, with meticulous research, development, testing and regulatory review required to ensure that new innovations will be both effective and absolutely safe. This process can at times take 10 to 12 years before a new product is introduced into the marketplace.
At the beginning of each year, Monsanto provides a comprehensive update on its innovation pipeline, highlighting new projects, those that are advancing in the pipeline process, and the new innovations that are close to being finalized and grown commercially.
Some of the key near-final pipeline projects we announced include:
- Tomatoes. The Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus affects tomatoes in hot climates and can quickly kill the entire plant. There are currently no effective chemical controls, merely prevention measures. We’re advancing a hybrid tomato seed with resistance genes for tomato bacterial wilt that could protect the plants and increase tomato yield.
- Peppers. These veggies are taking a hit from the fungus phytophthora capsici, which can attack the roots, stems, leaves and fruit, depending upon at which stage the plants are infected. There’s currently no cure once the fungus strikes, but we’re using advanced breeding to introduce resistance to this destructive pepper disease.
- Cotton. The Root Knot Nemotode is a ruthless tyrant that can cause symptoms including stunting, yellowing and wilting of the crop. We’re advancing a Root Knot Nematode Resistance that has the potential to reduce populations of the parasite by 60 percent in cotton.
- Canola. The fight against canola weeds is all about flexibility. We’re innovating new seeds and tools to offer more modes of action against weeds, including multiple herbicide choices and the ability to increase the rate by which herbicides can be applied.
- Corn. Corn is has one of the most devastating assailants of all: corn rootworm. Called the “billion dollar bug,” it’s a devastating pest that feeds on and affects about 30 million acres of corn and growing. Our biotech pipeline is helping fight the bug by developing corn seeds that offer the potential of more corn and less insecticide use.
- Soy. Through breeding, we’re advancing traits to help protect soybeans from aphids and cyst nematodes. We’re working on the world’s first in-the-seed pest protection for soybeans and improving soybean yields.
- Biologicals. Five diverse projects are moving through our biologicals pipeline, including a product to help protect bees from their biggest foe, the varroa mite.
- Integrated Farming Systems. To help farmers get more from every acre, we’re furthering their ability to understand field-level data and hyper-local weather information for planting and harvesting with FieldScripts, a new technology platform.
For more, please visit Monsanto.com/pipeline.