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Monsanto developing drought-tolerant seeds

Dilip Kumar Jha  |  Mumbai 

Monsanto, one of the world's leading multinational bioscience companies, is working on cold-tolerant, salt- tolerant and nitrogen-utilisation seeds for better fertility.
Besides, it has been attempting to commercialise the drought-tolerant seeds of corn and cotton, which are currently undergoing field trials. Also in its pipeline are health-friendly products, including those rich in Omega-3, that reduce the risk of heart attacks.
"The first drought-tolerant crops are being improved to tolerate insufficient amount of water," said Dr Harvey Glick, director, Scientific Affairs, Monsanto Company in an e-mailed response.
The drought-tolerant technology would lead to yield insurance, yield enhancement and cost savings on the irrigated land.
"Today, agriculture is, without question, the largest consumer of water. Hence, the first-generation trait won't be a one-size-fits-all approach. We're working on a family of traits to address the challenge of drought tolerance in farming operations," Glick said.
"Our first-generation Vistive product saw a stronger demand from farmers and food companies than we expected. Kellogg's December announcement about using our Vistive technology as a part of its initiative to lower trans-fats in its products is a further confirmation of the value of this technology. In 2007, we will be crossing some commercial milestones," he added.
In 2005, farmers in the US grew Vistive soybeans spread over 100,000 acres. In 2006, the cultivated area went up to 500,000 acres and this year, the company expects Vistive technology to be used over 1.5 million acres globally.
The company is targeting an expanded geographical range for soybeans, with over 3,000 farmers covering three maturity zones, thus enhancing the already reliable seed/dealer network. It is planning to be in more than 10 seed varieties, up from one.
The cost of research for developing new crops is expensive and hence, the Indian farmers would perhaps have to pay a premium due to company's estimated investment of around $100 million and a gestation period of about 10 years.

First Published: Wed, April 18 2007. 00:00 IST
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