Wheat is grown on more land area than any other commercial crop and is the most important staple food for humans. With demand for the crop expected to increase 40 percent by 2030, agricultural innovation is important in helping enhance the productivity, sustainability and profitability of wheat for farmers.
In 2009, Monsanto expanded its seeds and traits portfolio to include wheat. Today, through its WestBred brand, Monsanto is focused on delivering high-performing, locally adapted varieties across major wheat classes in the United States.
Wheat Research and Development
Monsanto is combining multiple technologies to help improve wheat productivity, including breeding, biotechnology and improved agronomic practices.
Monsanto has been investing in wheat breeding research – doubling the number of wheat breeding trials and deploying advanced breeding tools like molecular markers and seed chipping technology that will help develop better varieties faster. Monsanto wheat breeders are also applying lessons learned from other crops to further speed up advancements.
In addition to breeding for overall yield improvement, Monsanto’s wheat breeding efforts are focused on preventing yield loss due to disease and other environmental stressors.
The breeding team operates out of five research centers located across major U.S. wheat growing areas. This enables the development of diverse varieties that are tailored and adapted to local environments, providing strong agronomic characteristics that address farmer needs.
While the company’s near-term focus is on breeding better varieties, longer term, these seeds will serve as the germplasm foundation in which new biotechnology traits could be introduced in the next decade. Monsanto has two biotechnology projects currently in its research pipeline. The projects are in early research phases.
There are currently no biotechnology wheat varieties for sale or in commercial production.
Monsanto has announced several collaborations in both the public and private sectors, including partnerships with Kansas State University and Virginia Tech. Monsanto is working closely with the universities’ breeding programs to exchange germplasm and breeding research to develop improved varieties.
In 2010, Monsanto also announced a wheat breeding collaboration with InterGrain, a leading cereal breeder in Australia. The companies are working together on breeding advancements in areas such as yield performance, disease resistance, drought tolerance and end use qualities to benefit wheat growers, particularly those in Australia.
The success of wheat will require the continued partnership and cooperation of many. Monsanto remains committed to ongoing dialogue with the wheat industry and farmers to support the successful introduction of new technologies thoughtfully.