Research and Development
Research is the heart of Monsanto and its future. We invest more than 180 million dollars every year toward research to improve vegetable varieties. With 55 vegetable research stations around the world, our global presence helps researchers discover new varieties that meet regional farmer and consumer needs and are adapted to local microclimates. The depth and breadth of the vegetable product line sold through our brands is the result of the company's strong commitment to research and development.
Our plant breeders are using traditional plant breeding techniques, marker-assisted breeding and advanced analytical methods to develop improved vegetables and melons. Our breeders also are working to improve products at both planting and harvest, by combating environmental factors that limit the plant’s output and by enhancing the product’s end-market features – including appearance and quality.
Built-in (genetic) control of diseases often offers the best protection against widespread diseases like downy mildew, a common disease in cucumber.
Our aim is to be best in class and to deliver our customers the highest quality seed with the greatest potential for successful production.
A Focus on the Consumer
Monsanto is developing products that are designed to bring benefits to growers and offer better-tasting, more appealing products for consumers.
We hope that by developing products with excellent flavor, more conveinience and overall appeal, people will enjoy eating more vegetables. Here are a few of the products that Monsanto has delivered to its farmers and distribution partners.
EverMild, low-pungency onions
This type of onion is grown to have a consistently rich flavor but with less bite and low tears. Similar to other domestic sweet onions, the EverMild onion is harvested in the fall in the Northwest and available in the marketplace September through March.
Beneforté, improved nutrition broccoli
Each serving of Beneforté contains two to three times the phytonutrient glucoraphanin as a serving of other leading broccoli varieties, produced under similar growing conditions. Glucoraphanin, boosts your body’s antioxidant enzyme levels which help maintain the antioxidant activity of vitamins A, C and E in your body. Grown in California, Arizona and Mexico.
Melōränge, “Perfectly Ripe” melon
Flavorful, aromatic and sweet tasting, Melōränge tastes like a summertime melon even in the winter. It is one of the sweetest tasting melons available in select markets in North America from December through April. Grown in Central America and Arizona.
BellaFina, mini bell peppers
These peppers are one-third the size of a regular bell pepper. They are colorful and have a sweet flavor and crisp texture. Available nationwide at select retailers. Grown in North Carolina, Florida and California.
Frescada, a cross between Romaine and iceberg lettuce
By breeding the two lettuce types together, we were able to keep the sweet taste and crisp texture of iceberg lettuce in a product that contains 246% of the folate and 174% of the Vitamin C in iceberg lettuce, as well as the deeper green color from Romaine lettuce. Grown in central California and Arizona.
Biotechnology and Vegetables
Within vegetables, the vast majority of our R&D focus is on advanced breeding efforts – more than 98%, in fact – and that’s where we plan to maintain our research focus. Advanced breeding is the best fit for vegetables for two main reasons: we believe we can bring more products to market faster and it’s more cost effective.
In vegetables, the crops typically are grown on smaller acreage, compared with the larger acreage in row crops such as corn and soybeans. To get a product with a biotech trait from discovery to market, on average, requires an investment of more than $100 million over 10 or more years.
However, there are some cases where a destructive virus or other pest can’t be controlled through breeding and is impacting a significant number of acres. Those are the opportunities where biotech could have a role to play and could be considered as a tool. There are examples of biotech in vegetables already on the market today, including our virus-resistant squash and insect-protected, herbicide tolerant sweet corn.
While Monsanto is not working on extensive biotech vegetable research, the overall industry does have a robust pipeline of research efforts in this area. Examples include work in apples, pineapples, tomatoes and even potatoes.