Monsanto plans to expand its Xtend herbicide tolerance package, which combines tolerance to dicamba and glyphosate, in the coming years, adding other herbicide-tolerance traits, and introducing it to new crops, including canola.
Monsanto, subsidiary The Climate Corporation, and The BioAg Alliance — Monsanto’s collaboration with Novozymes — shared their annual innovation pipeline updates in conjunction with Monsanto’s latest earnings report on Thursday.
Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s chief technology officer, and Sam Eathington, chief science officer for The Climate Corporation, discussed their research and development plans in a conference call with media.
Here are some notes from their update:
- Triple-stacked Xtend soybeans — After rolling out its dicamba- and glyphosate-tolerant Xtend soybeans in 2016 and 2017, Monsanto says its is in the late development stages with its next generation of soybean genetics that add glufosinate (commonly known as Liberty) tolerance to the Xtend package. “Those, depending on the final regulatory approvals, should launch in the next two to three years,” said Fraley. “It’s in phase four of our pipeline, so we’re now going through the advanced regulatory approvals.”
- Xtend soybeans in 2018 — The company is still expecting to double Xtend soybean acres to 40 million in 2018. Most U.S. states have announced new rules for spraying the related new dicamba formulations after problems with herbicide drift injury in 2017. Construction of Monsanto’s new dicamba manufacturing plant in Luling, Louisiana is slated for completion in 2020.
- Xtend canola — Monsanto is planning to introduce canola with both glyphosate and dicamba tolerance traits. “It’s in one of the early phases in the pipeline, so it’s still going to be roughly five or six years away from commercial launch, but we’re moving it forward in the pipeline. It’s going through some of the initial agronomic testing. We’ve made a commitment to develop the technology,” said Fraley. There’s also work underway on bringing the Xtend platform to sugar beets.
- It’s status quo for TruFlex canola, which has been approved in Canada since 2012, and is awaiting Chinese regulatory approval. This herbicide tolerance trait would enable a wider timing window with a higher rate of glyphosate. There was a report Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s trip to China in late 2017 was going to possibly spur some movement on this file, but that doesn’t appear to have happened. “That technology should have been in the Canadian market three or four years ago. It’s unfortunate we’ve had those extensive delays in terms of final Chinese regulatory approval,” said Fraley. “We’re working hard to address any of the questions or concerns that the regulators may have.”
- The Climate Corporation is advancing its predictive modelling and scripting technology, including: using artificial intelligence to diagnose diseases in corn, soybeans and wheat in real-time; to help farmers optimize seed selection and seeding rates; and for fertility scripting. P&K scripting research in Canada is advancing from concept to development phase.
- The BioAg Alliance continues to develop biological treatments, including Acceleron B-360 ST, which the company says uses soil microbes as a seed coating to help nutrient uptake, targeted for release in 2019.