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

HerbicidesAdjusting To The New Reality Of Weed Control
November 4, 2014
Even with new cropping systems being readied for market introductions, weed control will remain a challenge for many. 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
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

Latest News

Eric SfiligojGiving Thanks For Another Great Year
November 24, 2014
As Thanksgiving Day 2014 arrives, agriculture has plenty to be thankful for. Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Cost-Cutting Program To Affect 1,800 Jobs
November 24, 2014
The company's Accelerating Operational Leverage program will result in job reductions and relocations totaling around 1,800 across the company, the majority of which will occur in 2015. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Announces Operator Of The Year Finalists
November 20, 2014
Four custom applicators have been selected by AGCO Application Equipment as finalists for 2014 Operator of the Year, an honor that recognizes them as being among the top professionals in their industry throughout North America. Read More
MicronutrientsH.J. Baker Expands Tiger-Sul Business
November 20, 2014
H.J. Baker has created and filled two strategic positions in business development and sales within its Crop Performance Division. Read More
soybean field
FertilizerGeneral Mills Honors United Suppliers For Nitrogen Opti…
November 19, 2014
United Suppliers winning proposal detailed SUSTAIN, a consulting network that provides customized products and services for farmers using a needs-based system approach. Read More
EmployeesOhio AgriBusiness Association Awards $25,000 In Scholar…
November 19, 2014
Each year, the Ohio AgriBusiness Association Educational Trust scholarship program awards scholarship dollars to students enrolled in an agriculture-related field attending several state colleges. Read More
ManagementServi-Tech Names New CEO
November 17, 2014
Servi-Tech has named Greg Ruehle its new president and CEO. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Ag Acquires Colorado Aerial Application Outlet
November 17, 2014
Ft. Lupton, CO-based Reck Aviation — a full-service chemical application company providing aerial crop applications of fertilizers and crop protection products — will operate as part of Pinnacle's AgOne Application Services brand. Read More
Eric SfiligojMcDonald’s Message: Biotech Crops Scarier Than Cancer
November 17, 2014
Despite their potential health benefits, one of the world’s largest potato users will pass on a new biotech offering. Read More
MicronutrientsWinField Releases 2014 NutriSolutions Results
November 14, 2014
A number of significant regional and national crop deficiency trends emerged from the 2014 WinField NutriSolutions tissue sampling program. Read More
FertilizerH.J. Baker Opens Chinese Production Lines
November 14, 2014
The occasion was the official launch of the Tiger-Sul sulphur Bentonite production line of two much anticipated fertilizer products in China, T90CR sulphur fertilizer and TZinc micronutrient enhanced sulphur fertilizer. Read More
ManagementOhio Certified Crop Adviser Program Accepting Nominatio…
November 14, 2014
The award recognizes an individual who delivers exceptional customer service for farmer clients in nutrient management, soil and water management, integrated pest management and crop production in Ohio. Read More
HerbicidesSyngenta Announces Acuron Trial Plot Results
November 14, 2014
Acuron was tested at 167 trial locations across 35 states. Trials included 95 Syngenta locations, 54 university locations and 18 distributor locations. Read More
Crop InputsVerdesian Expands Sales Force
November 13, 2014
The new sales representatives will work with growers, retail partners and distributors to oversee technical training and product education. Read More
EquipmentAGCO Raises $100K For Wounded Warrior Project
November 13, 2014
AGCO Corp. partnered with local AGCO dealers across the U.S. and Canada to raise nearly $100,000 in support of wounded service veterans. Read More
HerbicidesDow AgroSciences Announces Launch Of Enlist Duo Herbici…
November 12, 2014
It will be launched in conjunction with a stewarded introduction of Enlist corn, and seed production of Enlist soybeans in 2015. Read More
FertilizerH.J. Baker Expands Tiger-Sul Business
November 12, 2014
Agricultural firm H.J. Baker has created and filled two strategic positions in business development and sales within its Crop Performance Division. Read More
Blenders13 Fertilizer Blenders For 2015
November 12, 2014
Dealers can find a fertilizer blender to deliver any speed, volume and custom mix they want. Read More