Water is a vital element in the production of food. Helping farmers better manage water utilization for crops is the focus of Monsanto Co.’s Water Utilization Learning Center, which opens today at Gothenburg, NE.
More than 200 farmers, government officials and industry representatives are expected to attend the grand opening, which is sponsored by Monsanto’s Genuity™ trait brand. The Water Utilization Learning Center, the first of its kind in agriculture, is a $6 million facility designed for studying cropping systems comprised of world class genetics, agronomic practices and biotech traits including water-use efficiency technologies such as drought-tolerant cropping systems. The center will help Monsanto advance research to help improve farmers’ productivity in the Western Great Plains while gaining a better understanding of water use by crops.
“Water is a major factor in agriculture production,” says Robb Fraley, Monsanto Chief Technology Officer. “In any given year, 10 million to 13 million acres of farmland planted to corn in the United States may be affected by at least moderate drought, and every crop acre faces some degree of water stress at some point in the growing season.”
More than 80 cropping and irrigation demonstrations are featured at the 155-acre farm and learning center. Among the Monsanto corn and soybean technologies on display are Genuity™ Roundup Ready 2 Yield™ soybeans, Genuity™ VT Triple PRO™ corn, and first-generation drought-tolerant technology for corn.
“Our upcoming drought-tolerant crop technologies represent one potential tool for addressing the challenge of water utilization, while ensuring greater sustainability and production within agriculture,” Fraley adds.
In addition to crop and irrigation demonstrations, the facility includes three conference rooms that will be equipped with state-of-the-art videoconferencing capabilities. The center will be hardwired to eventually conduct virtual tours of robotics and seed analytics facilities in remote locations such as Monsanto’s breeding facility in Ankeny, IA, or the company’s Chesterfield, MO, research facility, for example. The site also includes a 20,000 square foot breeding station and a smaller building to dry corn.
Gothenburg Learning Center Lead Chandler Mazour said Monsanto selected the site because of its location in the transition zone from dryland acres to irrigated acres on the western High Plains, adding that Monsanto needs that diversity to determine how to use future technologies in adding value to crops.
“The center provides visitors the platform to see our approach to water utilization from a systems standpoint, that is breeding, biotechnology and agronomics,” Mazour adds. “Visitors get a first-hand understanding of how we make our genetic and biotechnology gains, and the process of reaching our sustainability goals and, most important, the goals that they want to achieve on their farms.”
The Gothenburg Water Utilization Learning Center is open during the summer for tours. Farmers can schedule a tour of the facility by contacting their local seed company representative.