By Milton Stokes, PhD, MPH, RD
Global Health and Nutrition Outreach Director, Monsanto
I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and your new year is already off to a great start. As I look into 2017, I hope we get a chance to spend some time together and connect about food and farming. I think we share a lot of the same interests, including identifying ways to improve agriculture and helping farmers meet the increasing demands of society—all while using natural resources and farm inputs more efficiently and minimize impacts to the planet. I’ve frequently found that people aren’t aware that Monsanto invests in a broad number of scientific approaches to these ever-evolving needs.
Along these lines, we recently highlighted a number of key developments underway in our R&D pipeline – including our work in data science, plant breeding, plant biotechnology, crop protection and ag biologicals. In January, we update our technology pipeline and this month’s announcement profiles several of the key projects that we’re investing in to help farmers improve their productivity regardless of where they farm, what size of land they farm or what agricultural practices they choose to deploy in their operations. Farmers in developing countries are among those most at risk for food and nutrition insecurity. By creating tools for small stakeholder farmers, we can improve lives and reduce hunger. Monsanto’s innovations go beyond just our work in plant biotechnology or GMOs, even though this subject often occupies the headlines. Here are a few of my favorite projects and areas of innovation we are working on:
White Head Cauliflower – Often, cauliflower heads are discolored by the sunlight, requiring farmers to cover the heads in the field. Brilliant White Cauliflower is designed to resist discoloration, which has the potential to eliminate the need to cover the heads and reduce harvest loss. The product also offers the potential for an improved shelf life, and better looking cauliflower may result in less food waste. Let’s hope this encourages more vegetable consumption!
Measurement Tools – Access to data can help farmers make better decisions about their farming practices and use resources and land more efficiently. We are developing an in-field sensor network that will provide more frequent measurements from the field to farmers to help with the important decisions they make each season to protect and increase harvests. Better data – better decisions – more sustainable agriculture!
Microbial BioControl Platform – The BioControl platform is being developed to use fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms to help protect plants against diseases or insects. This microbial platform has the potential to provide U.S. corn and soybean growers with another tool for controlling disease and insects in their fields. This tool, derived from nature, is showing great promise for farmers!
Weather – Accurate weather updates and forecasts are critical to farmers. We are developing insights from field-level weather events unique to their farms and critical to day-to-day decision making. Timely decisions help farmers use inputs wisely, which can help to optimize yield and improve their profitability. Once again, better data helps identify even more ways to make agriculture more sustainable!
Monsanto’s work in R&D is aimed at helping: 1) reduce the footprint of global ag production through better harvests, 2) protect harvests from increasing threats, and 3) ensure that we can collectively deliver continuous improvement to global ag production. This is a big part of why I work here. You can learn more about these projects at www.monsanto.com/pipeline.
Please let me know if you would like any more information about these projects. I believe we have a shared interest in advancing food, health, sustainability and innovation, and I hope we have the opportunity to continue these discussions in the coming year.