Monsanto Announces Long-Term Committment to Western Canadian Corn Breeding Program


Monsanto Canada recently announced its commitment of $100 million over the next 10 years towards breeding earlier maturing corn varieties aimed at the western Canadian market.

Monsanto Canada today announced details of a long-range plan focused on breeding corn hybrids with earlier relative maturities (RM) that are adapted to the diverse geography and climatic conditions found across much of Western Canada, the company says in a press release.

Dubbed the Canada Corn Expansion Project, Monsanto will invest $100 million over the next ten years to produce corn hybrids that could be widely grown across a potential geography of 26 million acres in Western Canada. Taking into consideration crop rotations, this could result in an estimated annual western corn market of eight-to-ten million acres by 2025, up significantly from the current annual western Canadian corn acreage of around 300,000 to 500,000 acres – the large majority of which is confined to Southern Manitoba.

“Increasing our investment in Western Canada is consistent with our mission to help farmers produce more, conserve more and improve lives by continually and consistently delivering new, higher-value crop innovations that improve farm profitability,” said Mike Nailor, corn and soybean lead for Canada. “We also see the potential for this work to bring significant economic growth to western Canadian agriculture.”

Monsanto says the opportunity will be realized through a sustained breeding effort dedicated to the 70 to 85 RM corn market and involve extensive field testing; agronomic training for farmers and others within the agriculture industry; marketing and agronomic support; and partnerships with the channel.

“Farmers in Western Canada are some of the most sophisticated in the world but most haven’t had the option to grow corn in the shorter-season climate that characterizes Western Canada. They produce great crops year-after-year in canola, wheat, barley and alfalfa, to name a few. But what if they could do better? That’s the question we started to ask ourselves when we looked at the corn opportunity,” said Nailor. “There will definitely be a learning curve but farmers are innovators and strong adopters of technology. I don’t doubt for a second, that given the tools, they will drive corn acre expansion across the west if the yield and profitability potential in corn remains strong relative to other cropping options.”

More from the press release:

Executing on the company’s long-range plan will involve working collaboratively with a wide variety of stakeholders in the Canadian marketplace. Dan Wright, Canada corn expansion project lead, says Monsanto will engage farmers right away as they start technology development trials, working to minimize the risks for farmers who plant corn in new regions of the country while transferring knowledge and expertise about corn to farmers and the retail channel. Ongoing market analysis and farmer surveys are also planned to confirm the market opportunity and ensure farmers are supported with agronomic and technical advice as they make the business decision to incorporate corn into their rotation.

“We are very interested in working with stakeholders across the industry as we gather information and develop best-management practices for farmers,” said Wright. “Outreach to universities and extension services, industry associations, farm groups and equipment manufacturers are all part of our overall outreach strategy. These groups all have expertise to contribute to this project and we’ll need their support and opinions to realize the full economic potential for the western Canadian marketplace.”

The work to take place in Canada is part of a much larger, global Monsanto corn expansion project focused on developing corn hybrids with earlier relative maturities for a number of global markets, with particular emphasis on emerging markets in the Ukraine and Russia.

“There is a lot of work ahead of us to help Canadian farmers be successful with this opportunity, but we feel it holds significant potential to transform western Canadian agriculture, strengthen agricultural productivity and deliver incremental income to farmers annually,” said Wright. “And even though our focus is on the western Canadian market, our breeding work will also deliver new hybrids that could be grown by farmers in northern parts of Ontario and Quebec.”

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