Monsanto Canada Embarks on Bold Plan to Bring New Crop Options to Western Canadian Farmers
Jun 24, 2014
The western Canadian agricultural landscape could look markedly different in ten years as breeding and technology gains in corn give western Canadian farmers the option to plant a crop they haven’t traditionally considered in their crop rotation plans.
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.
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.”
Nailor added that Monsanto’s focus as it brings corn to western Canadian farmers will be on doing what is right for the farmer agronomically in the long-term and helping them minimize early-adoption risk as they add corn to their rotation.
The dedication of people and resources by Monsanto to the Canada Corn Expansion Project has been ongoing for months but actually dates back several years when Monsanto started carving out a portion of its corn breeding budget in London, Ontario to focus on breeding for earlier maturing corn hybrids. With incremental investment secured to support the early corn project, the company has recently been able to significantly expand its corn breeding efforts at several North American sites, including in Carman, MB where Monsanto has added a new corn breeding and testing station. The increased investment more than doubles the company’s previous breeding and testing budget dedicated to 70 to 85 RM corn hybrids and should drive quicker introduction of corn hybrids for farmers in geographies across the northern U.S. and Western Canada.
Several new positions in Western Canada were also posted and filled this past spring, including the hiring of a new corn breeder and testing manager for the Carman site. An additional three new technology development roles were also added to provide the pre-commercial research support for corn in Western Canada.
“One of the obvious benefits of this project is that it provides western Canadian farmers with an additional crop choice that can enhance the overall profitability of their farming operation,” said Nailor. “But we also see a lot of room for growth and expansion in other crops that include canola and soybeans to complement a typical western Canadian rotation. Our goal will be to help farmers incorporate corn into their current production system to maximize opportunity across a variety of crops, whether they are farming in Manitoba, Saskatchewan or Alberta.”
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.”
Headquartered in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Monsanto Canada ULC is part of the larger global Monsanto family. Monsanto Company is an agricultural company and a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality. Monsanto remains focused on enabling both small-holder and large-scale farmers to produce more from their land while conserving more of our world’s natural resources such as water and energy. Learn more about our business and our commitments at www.monsanto.ca.