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

Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
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

Trending Articles

InsecticidesNew Research Study Shows The Value Of Neonics
October 29, 2014
The study evaluated seed treatment, soil and foliar uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in the U.S. and Canada. Read More
Crop InputsPlatform Specialty Products To Acquire Arysta LifeScience
October 20, 2014
Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Offers New Support For Ferguson, Area Communities
October 8, 2014
Monsanto Co. has committed $1 million in new support for several collaborative efforts in Ferguson, MO, and surrounding communities in North St. Louis County. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnapproved Genetically Modified Wheat Found In Montana
October 3, 2014
USDA reports that one year after discovery of Monsanto's unapproved wheat in a single Oregon field disrupted U.S. wheat export sales, the GMO wheat has again been found in Montana. Read More
Equipment2014 Product Of The Year Voting
September 19, 2014
The deadline to vote for the 2014 CropLife IRON Product of the Year is October 31. 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

Latest News

StewardshipTFI Recognizes Michigan, Maryland Farms For 4R Stewards…
October 31, 2014
As farming practices increasingly attract interest from the general public, two farmers are ensuring they meet public approval. Read More
Eric SfiligojBig Brother Is Already Watching
October 31, 2014
Opponents to UAVs seem to think they could be used to spy on other people. But spying is already taking place, through the Internet. Read More
StewardshipAsmark Institute’s New Training Center Focused On…
October 31, 2014
The newly dedicated Ford B. West Center for Responsible Agriculture will be used as a national training and education center for professionals in the ag input industry. Read More
StewardshipCTIC Tour Dives Deep Into Everglades
October 31, 2014
The most recent Conservation In Action Tour (CTIC) hit South Florida recently to tour the Everglades Agricultural Area. Read More
StewardshipResponsibleAg Begins Auditor Training
October 31, 2014
ResponsibleAg auditor training is now underway at the Ford B. West Center for Responsible Agriculture in Owensboro, KY. Read More
CropLife 100ValueAct Buys Stake In Fertilizer Dealer Agrium
October 30, 2014
ValueAct has bought 8.2 million shares in Calgary, Alberta-based Agrium, making them the second largest investor in the fertilizer dealer. Read More
InsecticidesNew Research Study Shows The Value Of Neonics
October 29, 2014
The study evaluated seed treatment, soil and foliar uses of neonicotinoid insecticides in the U.S. and Canada. Read More
StewardshipUSDA To Provide $4 Million For Honey Bee Habitat
October 29, 2014
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that more than $4 million in technical and financial assistance will be provided to Read More
Crop InputsValent Launches New Low VOC ProGibb LV Plus Plant Growt…
October 29, 2014
ProGibb LV Plus PGR is a high-potency, liquid gibberellic acid formulation designed to comply with California’s new air quality standards for high volatile organic compound agricultural products. Read More
Crop InputsBayer CropScience Acquires Certain DuPont Crop Protecti…
October 29, 2014
Bayer CropScience and DuPont Crop Protection have signed an agreement for Bayer to purchase certain DuPont Crop Protection Land Management assets in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. Read More
ManagementWest Central Names New President
October 29, 2014
West Central’s board of directors have announced their unanimous decision to name Milan Kucerak President and CEO-elect following Jeff Stroburg’s retirement at the end of the fiscal year. Read More
InsecticidesValent U.S.A., MGK Form Marketing Agreement
October 24, 2014
Valent has formed an agreement with Minneapolis-based MGK to manage the marketing and sales of MGK’s crop protection line of insect control products within the U.S. beginning April 1, 2015. Read More
StewardshipFlorida’s 4R Advocate Keeps Improving
October 24, 2014
Florida farmer Alan Jones uses the 4R principles of nutrient stewardship as the core of his fertility program, which allows him to maximize production and keep costs in check. Read More
Seed/BiotechMonsanto Named One Of The World’s Best Multinational …
October 23, 2014
Monsanto ranked No. 8 in the world’s largest annual study of workplace excellence that identifies the top 25 best multinational companies in terms of workplace culture. Read More
Crop InputsArysta Hires Former Agri-Chem, CPS Employee For Delta S…
October 23, 2014
New Territory Sales Manager Mark Peel’s primary role will focus on working with growers regarding fungicides in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Announces Appointments In Plant Food Division
October 22, 2014
GROWMARK, Inc. has announced the three key staff changes in its Plant Food Division. Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Appoints New VP Of Finance And Risk Management
October 22, 2014
Wade Mittelstadt has been named GROWMARK Vice President, Financial and Risk Mangement, effective December 1, 2014. Read More
FungicidesEPA Approves BASF In-Furrow Corn Fungicide
October 22, 2014
Field trials show Xanthion In-furrow fungicide provides more rapid emergence, extended residual control and improved seedling health than untreated crops. Read More