An Eye On Ethanol

Corn field

Ethanol production is placing an enormous demand on our agricultural system. This past year the industry used about 1.8 billion bushels of corn and about 12 million acres of land to produce 5 billion gallons of ethanol. With the amount of corn used for ethanol expected to double in the next three years, the U.S. is, in essence, asking farmers for more ethanol from each acre and bushel of corn.

Monsanto‘s breeding and biotechnology research programs are aimed at developing hybrids that deliver more from each corn acre and bushel. Corn yields have doubled in the past 40 years says USDA’s Economic Research Service; due to advances in breeding and biotechnology, we believe that we can cut in half the time needed for the next doubling, increasing average corn yields from today’s 150 bushels per acre to 300 bushels per acre over the next 20 years.

Breeding, Biotech Deliver Corn Yield Gains

Corn breeders have a strong history of improving corn yield. The national average corn yield has been increasing by about 1.2% per year for the past 40 years, resulting in a doubling of yield from 75 bushels per acre to today’s 150 bushels per acre average. The advent of molecular markers provides breeders with a powerful tool to use in their breeding programs. DNA markers allow breeders to more accurately identify the genes that improve yield and to bring them together in a single hybrid much more quickly than has been possible in the past. In Monsanto’s global breeding program we’ve seen that marker-assisted breeding doubles the annual genetic rate of gain for corn yield. Maintaining this higher rate of improvement for the next 20 years has the potential to add a staggering 100 bushels per acre to the national corn yield average by the year 2030.

Biotech traits available to farmers today protect corn from insects and weeds, allowing a hybrid to yield closer to its genetic potential. In replicated field trials and in farmers’ fields, we’ve seen yield improvements of 7 bushels per acre for YieldGard Corn Borer hybrids and 6 bushels per acre for Roundup Ready Corn 2 hybrids. Triple-stacked hybrids — including YieldGard Corn Borer, YieldGard Rootworm and Roundup Ready Corn 2 — have shown even larger increases in yield relative to conventional corn, particularly when dry weather conditions occur in the presence of corn rootworm. Together, these results demonstrate that protecting hybrids with biotech traits can increase corn yield and enable increased ethanol production.

Commitment To The Future

Monsanto’s biotechnology pipeline includes second-generation protective traits as well as traits that directly increase yield. Second-generation insect protection traits seek to expand the range of insect pests controlled. Drought tolerance has the potential to increase corn yields in areas that receive lower annual rainfall as well as provide risk protection from mild seasonal drought on corn acres grown in the Midwest. Improved nitrogen use efficiency would allow corn plants to utilize applied nitrogen more efficiently than ever before to enhance corn yields. Based on early performance observations in our discovery and development pipeline, Monsanto believes that improved biotech traits have the potential to be major contributors to increasing the average national corn yield by 2030.

While ethanol demand continues to grow, feed will continue to be the major use of corn for at least the next decade. Parallel improvements in corn processing technology and enhanced feed quality will help farmers produce enough corn for both feed and fuel uses. Renessen — a joint venture between Monsanto and Cargill — has developed a new corn processing technology, Extrax, that is able to produce a new higher energy feed product with a more balanced amino acid profile for use in swine and poultry diets. This new corn ethanol processing technology is particularly useful when combined with a new specialty corn: Mavera high value corn with lysine. This high yielding, single cross hybrid has higher oil than conventional corn and a transgene that increases lysine levels. Renessen’s processing improvements will allow ethanol producers to continue to be profitable in the face of lower ethanol prices and higher corn prices. These same innovations will provide livestock feeders with new ethanol co-products that can be used at higher inclusion rates in swine and poultry diets.

Yield gains from marker-assisted breeding and biotechnology traits are increasing the rate at which corn yields improve. Together these future and new crop technologies have the potential for corn yield to double over the next 20 plus years to an average of 300 bushels per acre. Increasing corn yield and developing processing technology improvements will ensure that U.S. corn growers will produce enough corn to meet the growing feed and fuel demands for our country. 

Topics:

Leave a Reply

Crop Inputs Stories

MicronutrientsMicronutrients Going Macro
September 9, 2014
Between 2014’s fantastic growing conditions and a heightened awareness on plant nutrition, the major players in micronutrients are gearing up for another big year. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
FungicidesSudden Death Syndrome, Brown Stem Rot Reported In Indiana Soybeans
September 3, 2014
Farmers and retailers should be watching for symptoms of these two diseases over the next few weeks as they are best managed through preventative methods. Read More
HerbicidesScouting Key To Next Season’s Soybean Herbicide Program
August 12, 2014
When growing soybeans, growers need to think ahead to stay one step ahead of weeds. That means examining weed threats and evaluating which herbicides work best. Read More

Trending Articles

Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
Many new products were introduced to the ag retail marketplace this year. From this group, CropLife IRON and its consulting partners have selected five finalists for the Product of the Year award. Please cast your vote today to help us determine the winner. Read More
FertilizerFall Fertility 2014: Forecasting Fertilizer Use
September 7, 2014
Great crops this year have tapped the soil, and fall work is definitely called for, but how challenging will that get? Read More
CropLife 100CHS To Build $3 Billion Fertilizer Plant In North Dakota
September 5, 2014
The fertilizer plant in Spiritwood will be the single largest investment in CHS history, as well as the single largest private investment project ever undertaken in North Dakota. Read More
EquipmentNew Holland Acquires Miller-St. Nazianz
September 3, 2014
The assets of Miller acquired as part of the transaction will become part of New Holland Agriculture, a CNH Industrial brand, building on a successful four-year partnership between the two companies. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Acquires East Kansas Chemical
September 2, 2014
Ranked 82nd on the CropLife 100, East Kansas Chemical will operate as part of Pinnacle's Performance Agriculture brand. Read More
MAGIE 2014 ShowStopper
EquipmentJohn Deere Again Wins MAGIE ShowStopper Award
August 25, 2014
For the second consecutive year, John Deere was honored at the Midwest AG Industries Exposition (MAGIE) for its new R4045 sprayer. Read More

Latest News

FertilizerFertilizer Outlook And Technology Conference Set For No…
September 30, 2014
Conference participants can expect to gain perspective on the outlook for agriculture and major fertilizer materials and inputs from industry experts. Read More
MicronutrientsVerdesian Acquires Micronutrient Supplier
September 30, 2014
Verdesian Life Sciences has acquired QC Corp., a producer and supplier of granular and dry micronutrients and ferrous sulfate products. Read More
Eric SfiligojHearing From Young Ag Voices
September 30, 2014
Potential future leaders in ag retail had the chance to shine at the recent Mid America CropLife Association meeting. Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
September 30, 2014
Register for one of our upcoming Webinars or access our archive of past Webinars to view recordings of presentations that may be of interest to you. Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Appoints New Chief Operating Officer
September 29, 2014
Jon Parr will succeed retiring COO John Atkin at the end of the year. Read More
CropLife 100South Dakota Wheat Growers To Add Grain-Agronomy Facili…
September 26, 2014
Planned to be constructed in Kennebec, the facility will be located along the soon-to-be rehabilitated line of heavy-rail service from Chamberlain to Presho. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Vice President Appointments
September 25, 2014
Two individuals have been appointed Vice President positions on the GROWMARK executive team. Read More
FertilizerFertilizer Industry Organizations Join Global Alliance …
September 25, 2014
The Fertilizer Institute, the International Plant Nutrition Institute and the International Fertilizer Industry Association are encouraging the industry to promote the proper use of fertilizer products to minimize their environmental impact. Read More
Precision AgARA Organized Precision Forum Hits Capitol Hill
September 24, 2014
The Coalition for the Advancement of Precision Agriculture (CAPA) hosted its inaugural Precision Ag Forum, Sept. 18, in Washington, D.C. Read More
FertilizerFactors To Consider When Placing Fertilizer With Seed
September 24, 2014
The type of crop, fertilizer source, row spacing and soil environment all affect how much fertilizer can be safely applied with seed. Read More
FertilizerSidedressing Manure Into Corn Has Promising Results
September 24, 2014
Applying manure to growing crops can boost yields, reduce nutrient losses and give livestock producers another window of time to apply manure to farm fields. Read More
FertilizerWhen To Sample Manure For Analysis
September 24, 2014
Because the goal is to collect a sample that represents the manure actually being applied, the best time to sample is during loading or field application. Here's why. Read More
Syngenta
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Faces Second Lawsuit Over Agrisure Viptera Cor…
September 23, 2014
A second company has sued Syngenta AG over sales of genetically modified corn seed not approved by China. Read More
StewardshipCover Crops Field Guide For Farmers Expanded
September 23, 2014
Farmers interested in planting cover crops to improve soil health now have an updated and expanded resource in the second edition of the Midwest Cover Crops Field Guide. Read More
HerbicidesArysta LifeScience Launches Contest For Wheat Growers
September 23, 2014
The Flush after Flush Photo Finish contest encourages farmers across the U.S. to participate through Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #FlushAfterFlush. Read More
FertilizerCF Industries Confirms Merger Of Equals Discussions Wit…
September 23, 2014
CF Industries Holdings, Inc. has confirmed that it is in preliminary discussions with Yara International regarding a potential merger of equals transaction. Read More
StewardshipProgram To Examine Ag-Related Practices, Policies To Pr…
September 22, 2014
A panel discussion on October 14 will include a significant discussion on key issues and solutions related to all aspects of harmful algal blooms. Read More
Eric SfiligojIt’s Product Of The Year Voting Season
September 22, 2014
Readers of CropLife IRON will choose 2014’s best new product over the next month. Read More