Delay frustrates Monsanto

TruFlex, the next generation of the Roundup Ready trait, has been held up in China since 2012; it is one of several products that the company says is coming down its R&D pipeline

Monsanto officials say the company has a number of products in its research and development pipeline targeted for western Canadian farmers.

Robb Fraley, the company’s chief technology officer, said it is still awaiting Chinese regulatory approval of its TruFlex Roundup Ready canola.

TruFlex, which is Monsanto’s next generation Roundup Ready trait, was approved in Canada in 2012.

Fraley said the trait has been mired in China’s regulatory system for far too long.

“That technology, in my mind, should have been in the Canadian market three or four years ago,” he said.

“We’re working hard to address any of the questions or concerns that the (Chinese) regulators may have because I think it’s a key technology and one that will be important for canola production in Canada.”

Another trait being developed by the company is dicamba-tolerant canola, which is in phase two of the company’s Genuity pipeline. That means it is about five or six years away from commercial release. The trait is also being developed for corn and sugar beets.

Monsanto commercialized the trait in soybeans and cotton in 2017, and it was launched on 25 million acres worldwide. By comparison, Fraley recalls launching the Roundup Ready trait on three million acres in the mid-1990s.

The company expects U.S. farmers will plant 40 million acres of its dicamba-tolerant soybeans in 2018, which would be double last year and would account for 40 percent of total soybean acres in that country.

Fraley also touched on the successes of its increased investment in Canadian corn and soybean breeding programs.

He said the development of short-season, 70 to 80 day corn hybrids and double-zero and triple-zero soybeans is “one of the really remarkable advances” in the company’s research pipeline.

“We’re seeing corn yields of 120 to 150 bushels per acre, and we’re seeing soybean varieties where they perform at 40 to 50 bu.,” said Fraley.

Sam Eathington, chief science officer for Climate Corp., a subsidiary of Monsanto, said the company is working hard on brining its FieldView platform to Western Canada.

The product was available on 35 million paid acres worldwide in 2017, including nearly one million in Eastern Canada. The company anticipates 50 million paid acres in 2018.

Eathington said the company has some work to do to make the platform compatible with the equipment and crops in the western Canadian market.

“We continue to make progress on that and we’ll continue to expand there as fast as we can bring that product compatibility to the marketplace,” he said.

But that contradicts an Oct. 25, 2017, news release from Climate Corp. announcing the launch of the Climate FieldView platform in Western Canada for the 2018 growing season.

“Over the past year, the Climate FieldView platform had a strong testing effort across many farm operations in Western Canada, enabling the Climate team to further develop the platform’s compatibility with all types of farm equipment and crops, including canola and wheat,” stated the release.

According to the release, the platform will be available for purchase on a per-acre basis in 2018, although it did not specify the dollar amount.

Eathington said Climate Corp. has advanced 17 products through its research and development pipeline.

The company is using artificial intelligence to diagnose disease in corn, soybeans and wheat. It is having success correctly diagnosing diseases through mobile or tablet devices.

The corn disease diagnosis product is advancing from the development to pre-commercialization phase in the U.S.

Climate Corp. is using Monsanto’s plant genetics library in combination with its machine learning technologies to develop algorithms to help farmers select optimal seed products and appropriate planting densities for their fields.

Advanced seed scripting is in the development phase of the research pipeline in Brazil and the U.S. and the concept phase in Europe.

The company also offers manual fertility scripting for nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and lime for corn. It will be taking that same technology to other crops including soybeans, wheat and canola.

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