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
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manufacturer Kay-Flo
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
CropLife 100North Central Farmers Elevator, Wheat Growers Unification Approved By Board, Still Awaits Member Approval
May 13, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have voted to approve the Unification Read More
CropLife 100AgGateway’s Barcoding Initiative Progressing Nicely
May 8, 2015
According to legend (or Wikipedia), the first step towards modern bar codes came back in 1948, when Bernard Silver, a Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
CropLife 100GROWMARK Acquires Missouri Refined Fuels Terminal
April 2, 2015
Bloomington, IL-based GROWMARK and Magellan Pipeline Co. have entered into an agreement in which GROWMARK will acquire the refined fuels Read More
Latest News
ManagementA New Sprayer Company & UAV Research In The Spotlig…
May 21, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about a Dutch sprayer manufacturer entering the U.S. with a super-sized entry and Read More
HerbicidesFirst U.S. Sale Of Enlist Duo Herbicide Made By Dow Agr…
May 21, 2015
Dow AgroSciences has recorded the first U.S. sale of Enlist Duo herbicide with Colex-D Technology. This marks the first commercial Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manu…
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
EquipmentNORAC Options Coming To TerraGator
May 19, 2015
Utilizing NORAC’s Standard Control technology, boom height control is now available for TerraGators with Airmax Precision 2 and Benson Booms. This Read More
Crop InputsHelena Introduces New Soil Health Product
May 19, 2015
Helena Chemical Co. is helping agricultural producers maximize yields and efficiency with the introduction of Liquid Chisel, a new product Read More
Stewardship4R Nutrient Management Planning Certification Now Avail…
May 19, 2015
The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) and the International Certified Crop Adviser (ICCA) program announce a new specialty certification in Read More
Environmental Defense Fund logo
Paul SchrimpfEnvironmental Defense Fund: Appreciating Partners
May 19, 2015
I WAS deep in the throes of preparation for the Commodity Classic meeting that took place this past February, trying Read More
WebinarsUpcoming Webinars
May 19, 2015
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
Syngenta Sign
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Responds To Lawyer’s Victory Claim In Vi…
May 18, 2015
A plaintiff’s lawyer has issued a public statement claiming that damages have been awarded in the Agrisure Viptera corn lawsuits Read More
StewardshipCould Australian Water Trading Approach Fit In Californ…
May 18, 2015
Ten years of drought isn’t a good thing. It doesn’t help the bottom line of farmers or the health of Read More
SpreadersDutch Sprayer Manufacturer To Enter U.S. Market
May 18, 2015
Dutch self-propelled sprayer manufacturer Agrifac Machinery has announced intentions to enter the U.S. market with two models of sprayers available Read More
FertilizerTFI Weighs In On Fertilizer Rail Transport Bill
May 14, 2015
With today’s House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure as a backdrop, The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) registered its support for policies Read More
ManagementA Visit To The 2015 Environmental Respect Spirit Award …
May 14, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about a recent visit to the CPS Spirit winner in St. Stephen’s Church, Read More
StewardshipBayer Entomologist Issues Statement On Annual Honeybee …
May 13, 2015
Richard (Dick) Rogers, Principal Scientist / Entomologist, Bayer Bee Care Center for Bayer CropScience LP, today issued the following statement Read More
Crop InputsKansas State Researchers Announce Resistant Kochia Brea…
May 13, 2015
Kansas State University researchers say new research helps explain why an invasive weed is developing resistance to a well-known herbicide, Read More
RR2X soybeans surround untreated check (center)
HerbicidesUSDA Study: Glyphosate Application More Prevalent In So…
May 13, 2015
Glyphosate—known by many trade names, including Roundup—has been the most widely used pesticide in the United States since 2001. It Read More
AdjuvantsHelena Chemical Introduces New Drift Control Adjuvant J…
May 13, 2015
Helena Chemical Co. introduces Justified, an innovative drift control agent designed to improve the performance and precision of spray applications Read More
CropLife 100North Central Farmers Elevator, Wheat Growers Unificati…
May 13, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have voted to approve the Unification Read More