Soil Health Partnership Update at Classic

soil-healthSince the health of a farm depends largely on healthy soil, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), with support from the Walton Family Foundation and Monsanto, recently announced the formation a new Science Advisory Council and the Soil Health Partnership (SHP).

During a press conference at the Commodity Classic, members of the partnership discussed plans to help farmers enhance soil health and introduced the initiative’s first demonstration farmers – Bill and Tim Couser of Nevada, Iowa. NCGA vice president of production and utilization Paul Bertels, Monsanto sustainable business solutions lead Michael Doane, and Sean McMahon, North American agriculture program director for The Nature Conservancy, also took part in the discussion.

SHP’s ultimate goal is to measure and communicate the economic and environmental benefits of different soil management strategies; and provide a set of regionally specific, data-driven recommendations that farmers can use to improve the productivity and sustainability of their farms. Over the next five years, SHP will work to aggregate regional data to catalyze a platform for knowledge-sharing from farmer to farmer to create a set of best practices to improve soil health.

Listen to the full Soil Health Partnership press conference here: Soil Health Partnership Press Conference

Interview with Tim and Bill Couser: Bill and Tim Couser Interview

2014 Commodity Classic Photos

Climate Corp Adopts Data Privacy Standards

The Climate CorporationThe Climate Corporation today announced principles and commitments related to data use and privacy published on-line in a Guiding Principles on Data and Privacy statement.

climate-corp-friedberg“The application of data science in agriculture is relatively new, and with the development of new technologies comes some level of uncertainty about its potential implications. In our experience, farmers are more likely to embrace new technologies that will drive the evolution of agricultural production when they have certainty about the use, privacy and control of the data they personally generate on their own farms,” said David Friedberg, CEO of The Climate Corporation.

The Climate Corporation, which was acquired by Monsanto in October 2013, also announced the formation of an Open Agriculture Data Alliance (OADA). The alliance will be comprised of “providers and farmers to act as an independent body that will ensure that different platforms share common interoperability, common data formats, and security and privacy standards.”

Climate Corporation held a call with reporters on Friday to talk about the announcement: Climate Corporation media call

Since privacy of agricultural data is becoming a big concern for farmers and ranchers, the American Farm Bureau Federation adopted specific policies this year on that issue. AFBF president Bob Stallman issued a statement on the Climate Corporation announcement saying they are “encouraged that agribusinesses are taking our clear policy position into consideration” noting that “the company is working to address some of the concerns about data privacy, security and ownership expressed by our members.”

Monsanto Novozymes Bioag Alliance

The Bioag AllianceMonsanto and Novozymes jointly announced a “long-term strategic alliance to transform research and commercialization of sustainable microbial products that will provide a new platform of solutions for growers around the world.”

The BioAg Alliance will allow the companies to leverage employees, technologies and commercial assets in the companies’ agricultural biologicals portfolios. The BioAg Alliance is unique in the industry, bringing together Novozymes’ commercial BioAg operations and capabilities within microbial discovery, development and production with Monsanto’s microbial discovery, advanced biology, field testing and commercial capabilities. The result will be a comprehensive research, development and commercial collaboration to help farmers globally meet the challenge of producing more with less in a sustainable way – for the benefit of agriculture, consumers, the environment and society at large.

“As the world population grows at tremendous pace over the next decades, we need to significantly increase the output from our land without increasing the pressure on the environment,” says Peder Holk Nielsen, CEO of Novozymes. “Today, we forge a game-changing alliance with the potential to transform global agriculture. The combined capabilities of Novozymes and Monsanto create an innovation powerhouse with a unique opportunity and approach to unleash the transformational opportunity in naturally derived microbial solutions in agriculture.”

“Monsanto, Novozymes and the farmer customers we serve share a need to meet growing demand in a sustainable way, and investing in the research and development of agricultural biological technologies like microbials is another step in that direction and a natural extension of our core business,” says Robb Fraley, Ph.D., Chief Technology Officer of Monsanto. “Just as Monsanto has done with leadership investments in our precision agriculture platform, we see this collaboration as being the same type of catalyst for taking our biologicals work from a technology to a full-fledged platform that represents the next layer of opportunity for growers to drive yield and productivity while helping the preservation of finite natural resources in our precious planet.”

The companies held a press call in which you can listen to here: Monsanto/Novozymes Bioag Alliance Call

Climate Corporation’s Growth by Tracking Weather

nafb-13-29-editedAnother ag based company who attended this year’s Trade Talk at the recent NAFB Convention was the Climate Corporation. They are focused on applying data science to production agriculture and take all the environmental data, weather, soil conditions and current and seasonal projections and apply it to the production agricultural decisions growers make on a daily basis.

Greg Smirin, CEO of The Climate Corporation, sat down with me during the event to talk about some new products they are offering growers and what changes customers might see with the Monsanto acquisition.

“We help protect the grower from things they cannot control with our total weather insurance, crop insurance and we are rolling out for the season Climate Basic and Climate Pro, which helps the farmer make decisions throughout the growing season to boost profitability.”

Climate Basic and Climate Pro will use data science to change agriculture. The basic program is a free web and mobil service and will provide hyper-local weather on each of the fields a grower has. A grower gets projected growth stages, soil moisture tracking, alerts along with scouting and notes. The pro version comes with a fee, but growers get everything the basic provides with an advisor for planting, nitrogen, pest and disease, harvest and in variable rates.

There is no doubt the company provides a service for growers that can increase profitability by over $100 per acre. Recently, the company was acquired by Monsanto. The two companies have found that they are doing the same science based research. The Climate Corporation will continue to operate independently with growers, but they are now able to leverage the research that has come out of Monsanto’s labs.

Listen to my complete interview with Greg here: Interview with Greg Smirin

Checkout photos from NAFB Convention: 2013 NAFB Convention Photo Album

ASFMRA Speaker Interviews

Last week I posted podium remarks from Monsanto’s Dr. Robert Fraley and from California Secretary of Agriculture, Karen Ross at the Agronomics Vision 2014 conference in Reno, NV. After their presentations I sat down with them for a short interview which focused not only on their presentations but in more personal detail about what they see for the future. Feel free to click and watch or listen.

You can listen to my interview with Dr. Fraley here: Interview with Dr. Robert Fraley

You can listen to my interview with Karen here: Interview with Karen Ross

Agronomics Vision 2014 Photo Album

AgWired coverage of the ASFMRA Agronomics Conference is sponsored by Halderman Farm Management.

Monsanto Innovation to Meet Global Demand

Dr. Robert FraleyThis morning Dr. Robert Fraley, Monsanto Executive Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, took the stage at Agronomics Vision 2014. His task was to address “Meeting Global Demand Through Innovation in Agriculture.” It is a task he enjoys since that’s what Monsanto has always done!

Dr. Fraley talked about the projects and technologies that Monsanto is working on to support the doubling of yields needed by the year 2030 to feed a growing population. He says the Monsanto has always been a seed company that combines breeding with with biotechnology and agronomics solutions as well as new technologies.

You can listen to Dr. Fraley’s speech here: Dr. Robert T. Fraley Speech

Agronomics Vision 2014 Photo Album

AgWired coverage of the ASFMRA Agronomics Conference is sponsored by Halderman Farm Management.

America’s Farmers Grow Ag Leaders Scholarship

monsanto-thumbMonsanto Company just announced their launch of the America’s Farmers Grow Ag Leaders scholarship program to entice rural American students in pursuing careers in agriculture. The scholarship program in connection with the National FFA Scholarship program will provide rural students the opportunity to earn a $1,500 scholarship to pursue their education.

“With $1,500 to put toward their education, students will be better prepared to make a meaningful contribution that benefits themselves, their rural hometowns and the future of the agricultural industry,” said Elizabeth Vancil, Monsanto customer advocacy outreach manager.

About 25,000 agricultural jobs go unfilled each year due to the lack of qualified applicants. With a growing population the agricultural community needs talented, driven and passionate youth willing to commit to agriculture.

Monsanto recognizes and supports the role farmers play in the future of agriculture, so each Grow Ag Leaders applicant must have three farmers endorse his or her application. Eligible farmers can also help generate student interest in agricultural careers by spreading the word about this scholarship opportunity to eligible students in their communities and families.

America’s Farmers Grow Ag Leaders is currently available in 36 Crop Reporting Districts in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Nebraska, North Carolina and South Carolina. You can find a complete list of the 264 counties in the districts at AmericasFarmers.com.

Students interested in applying should visit the National FFA Organization to complete the application. Applications are accepted between November 15, 2013 and February 1, 2014. Eligible farmers interested in endorsing a student can also check out the National FFA Organizations website before February 8, 2014.

Monsanto Research Center Groundbreaking

monsanto-gb-1Monsanto celebrated the groundbreaking of a $400 million Chesterfield Village Research Center expansion this week, marking what they are calling the “next generation for agriculture and St. Louis.”

According to the company, the new global hub for research, development and agricultural innovation will create 675 new jobs in St. Louis over the next three years.

“Our Chesterfield expansion is focused on strengthening our world-class capabilities in the discovery and development of innovations for farmers around the world,” said Hugh Grant, chairman and CEO of Monsanto during the event which included Missouri Governor Jay Nixon. “As we look to the future, and work begins to expand this research facility, I’m reminded how important our mission to work together to help farmers produce more nutritious food in a sustainable way will continue to be.”

monsanto-chalk“Today solidifies Missouri as the leading agriculture innovation hub in the country,” said Nixon. “Monsanto’s decision to expand its footprint and create hundreds of high tech, high paying jobs in this region is good for our state, our economy and our citizens.”

Instead of the traditional hard hats and shovels, the groundbreaking celebration featured the unveiling of an interactive 3D chalk mural with an agricultural theme.

World Food Prize Laureates Meet the Press

wfp-13-laureatesThree biotechnology scientists are being honored at the World Food Prize ceremony in Des Moines tonight, but yesterday they met the press and answered some tough questions about the technology they have dedicated their lives to developing.

The 2013 World Food Prize Laureates are Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Dr. Robert Fraley, Marc Van Montagu of the Institute of Plant Biotechnology Outreach at Ghent University in Belgium, and Mary-Dell Chilton of Syngenta Biotechnology. All have achieved breakthrough achievements in founding, developing, and applying modern agricultural biotechnology.

The first question asked by a reporter was basically, why is Monsanto such a target for critics of biotechnology? “Sometimes that’s frustrating,” said Fraley. “I always assume that means we’ve been really successful and people see us as a leader and that’s part of the responsibility that goes with it.”

Chilton with Syngenta said she didn’t really understand why Monsanto is the main target of critics but she believes the industry as a whole needs to “have good communications with the public about the safety” of the technology.

Van Montagu believes that the critics have singled out Monsanto as the “villain” because it works better than talking about the industry as a whole. “If you start gossiping about a person, people always start believing gossip – humanity is like that,” he said.

Some interesting stuff here: World Food Prize Laureates press conference

2013 World Food Prize photos

World Food Prize Winner Visits TATT Roundtable

tatt-13-fraleyOne of the 2013 World Food Prize Laureates stopped by to visit the Truth About Trade and Technology Global Farmer Roundtable and talk about the importance of helping farmers around the world produce food more efficiently.

“I’m always reminded by what Dr. Borlaug used to say, that hunger never sleeps, and that means we can’t sleep either,” said Dr. Robert T. (Robb) Fraley, Chief Technology Officer for Monsanto.

tatt-13-robbDr. Fraley recalled a visit with Norman Borlaug towards the end of his life just a few years ago and how excited the “Father of the Green Revolution” was to hear about molecular breeding and gene sequencing. “And Norm says ‘I can see how the Green and Gene Revolutions are going to come together,’” said Fraley. “From a science perspective, that’s exactly what has happened.”

Fraley says explaining the importance and safety of biotech crops to the general public is a big challenge for the industry. “This is important to all consumers,” he said. “We’ve got to talk to consumers in the context of food security, food prices, the benefits of an affordable food system, the urgency of these tools for the rest of the world and the fact that by farming more efficiently and using less inputs, we dramatically reduce the impact that agriculture could have on the environment.” He also advocates the use of social media to communicate with the public and recently started his own Twitter account.

Dr. Fraley will be honored this week with the 2013 World Food Prize along with fellow biotechnology scientists Marc Van Montagu of the Institute of Plant Biotechnology Outreach at Ghent University in Belgium, and Mary-Dell Chilton of Syngenta Biotechnology.

Listen to my conversation with Dr. Fraley here: Interview with Monsanto's Robb Fraley

2013 TATT Global Farmer Roundtable photos

Monsanto Agrees to Acquire The Climate Corporation

MonsantoThis morning Monsanto made a big announcement. You can listen to the press call-in below which includes Monsanto’s executive vice president of global strategy, Kerry Preete, and David Friedberg, chief executive officer of The Climate Corporation.

Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire The Climate Corporation for a cash purchase price of approximately $930 million. The acquisition will combine The Climate Corporation’s expertise in agriculture analytics and risk-management with Monsanto’s R&D capabilities, and will provide farmers access to more information about the many factors that affect the success of their crops. The companies’ combined capabilities will support greater productivity while utilizing the planet’s finite resources more precisely.

The acquisition is expected to expand on The Climate Corporation’s leadership in the area of data science, which represents the agriculture sector’s next major breakthrough, and will immediately expand both the near- and long-term growth opportunities for Monsanto’s business and Integrated Farming Systems platform.

The Climate Corporation“The Climate Corporation is focused on unlocking new value for the farm through data science,” said Hugh Grant, chairman and chief executive officer for Monsanto. “Everyone benefits when farmers are able to produce more with fewer resources. The Climate Corporation team brings leading expertise that will continue to greatly benefit farmers and their bottom-line, and we want to expand upon this tremendous work and broaden their reach to more crops and more world areas. We look forward to working closely with our distribution partners and others in the agricultural industry to bring this suite of information resources to the farm.”

The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the first quarter of Monsanto’s 2014 fiscal year. Following the acquisition, The Climate Corporation will operate its business to retain its distinct brand identity and customer experience. The company will continue to maintain headquarters in Silicon Valley and all of its employees will be offered continued employment.

Listen to the Monsanto press call here: Listen to or Download Monsanto Call

Monsanto Increases Corn Rootworm Research Dollars

monsanto-postMonsanto Company is ponying up an additional $3 million in corn rootworm academic research which will extend the program, started earlier in the year, to 2016.  

Research projects that are rootworm-based will be able to receive up to $250,000 per year for three years. Areas of research include; economics of corn rootworm management, the development of predictive models, the characterization of resistance, and the development of broad survey methods.

USDA estimates that damage and the cost associated with controlling corn rootworm is $1 billion annually.  They further breakdown the estimate to $800 million in yield loss and $200 million in prevention.  Dr. Dusty Post, Monsanto’s Global Insect Management Lead is co-chair of the CRW Knowledge Research Project Advisory Committee.  I had a chance to catch up with Dr. Post and discuss how important the research is to managing this pest.Interview with Dr. Dusty Post

Anyone interested in applying for funding or have any other interests in the study should go to  www.monsanto.com/crwknowledge for key dates and instructions on how to apply.

Monsanto “Follow-A-Field” Initiative

Monsanto is encouraging farmers to “Follow-A-Field” in order to learn more about the next innovation in soybean and cotton weed control.

extend-follow-fieldThe Follow-A-Field initiative from Monsanto is an interactive experience featured on XtendFollowAField.com that follows three farmers as they take their Roundup Ready 2 Xtend™ soybean fields from burndown through harvest as part of the Monsanto Ground Breakers® Field Trials Under Permit program. The initiative will include testimonials, videos and photos captured from the three growing sites in Missouri, Illinois and Minnesota.

Michelle Vigna, Monsanto Roundup Ready Xtend launch manager, says the goal of the program is to prepare farmers, retailers and applicators to effectively use Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans with a diversified weed management plan such as Roundup Ready PLUS® Weed Management Solutions. “By bringing dicamba tolerance as an option within soybeans, it’s a totally new mode of action for helping manage tough-to-control and resistant weeds,” she said.

Pending regulatory approval, the Roundup Ready® Xtend Crop System will introduce Roundup Ready 2 Xtend™ soybeans, which contain tolerance to dicamba and glyphosate herbicides, which Vigna says they hope will happen in time for the 2015 growing season. “We’re working with USDA and EPA to get approval for the traits themselves and also for the chemistry used over the top,” said Vigna. They are also working for approval in export markets.

Monsanto has been working with BASF on the development of the herbicide to use with the dicamba-tolerant soybeans. BASF has already applied for registration of Engenia™ herbicide in anticipation of regulatory approval. “It’s really been a great opportunity to share learning and make sure we’re developing a system that growers and applicators can be successful with right out of the gate,” Vigna said, adding that they are working on bringing dicamba-tolerance into cotton as well. Interview with Monsanto's Michelle Vigna

Maximizing Yields With FieldScripts

monsanto-media-fps-13-66-editedMaximizing field yield is the goal of every grower, but is easier said than done. However, Monsanto’s FieldScripts program might be the answer. During the 2013 Farm Progress Show, Monsanto invited the media out to field to discuss the new opportunity and talk with FieldScripts Ground Breaker Growers.

Dale Sorensen, Integrated Farming Systems Field Research Lead, shared with the group the basics of what FieldScripts can offer in terms of precise seed placement and seeding rates. And how genetic and environmental components come into play.

“In 2013 we had our ground breakers program for FieldScripts. We had 150 growers from Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. Those 150 growers had three to five fields on average. They basically shared the field boundaries, prior yield history and soil test results. And then we developed what we call out FieldScripts Management Zones and created a variable rate seeding zone within that field with the genetics that the dealer and grower had chosen.”

Listen to my interview with Dale here: Interview with Dale Sorensen

GRAINCO FS dealer, John Walsh, was also on hand to share his insights from the dealer perspective. John went through the steps to become FieldScripts certified to add specific value to his customers.

“It’s not a dealership certification. Each individual gets certified. My main job is with the seed portion and this was going to differentiate us from a lot of other seed dealers. You can buy that same bag of seed at several different places. We try every year to come up with something to add value to our dealership.”

Listen to my interview with John here: Interview with John Walsh

I also took the opportunity to talk with one of John’s growers, Doug and Justin Durdan. The father and son team farm about 100 miles from the Farm Progress Show location and shared why they jumped at the chance to increase yields with this new technology.

“We always just try and stay on top of new technologies and we thought that this was a good avenue for use to stay ahead.”

“The biggest benefit is putting the proper plants in the proper areas. We really felt we were over populating our lighter soil, which we were. Now we feel we can get a better averaged yield.”

Listen to my interview with Doug & Justin here: Interview with Doug & Justin Durdan

Check out photos from the event here: 2013 Monsanto Ground Breakers Media Event Photo Album

Monsanto’s Ground Breaker Growers

monsanto-media-fps-13-27-editedMonsanto hosted a Ground Breakers Media Event right before the 2013 Farm Progress Show kicked off last week. Media gathered for dinner and then headed out into the field to see first hand the results from Monsanto’s Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Soybean Ground Breakers.

Tony White is the Soybean Technology Development Manager for Monsanto. His main responsibilities are managing the trait with Roundup Xtend soybeans. At his station he hit on the highlights of their Roundup Xtend Crop System and on the application requirements. He also shed some light on the feed back they have received from the Ground Breaker Growers who have used this system in their own fields.

“This is really the first time we will come to market with a trait and chemistry package. So we will have Roundup Xtend which will be resistant to dicamba and we will also have chemistry we can spray over the top of that. This is really an important tool for growers who are battling weed resistance and who need tools in the tool box to help control weeds.”

Listen to my interview with Tony here: Interview with Tony White

monsanto-media-fps-13-45-editedDuring the event we also had the chance to hear from some of the Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Ground Breaker Growers. Jim Hild from Illiopolis, IL. farms just 25 miles from the Farm Progress Show location. He specializes in corn, soybeans and seed corn and has been very pleased with the results. Jim also shared how straight forward the application requirements are and how simple they are to follow.

“We sprayed the beans three to four weeks after planting wuth Roundup Xtend, which is a mixture of Roundup and dicamba. And cleaned up the weeds. I was very pleased. Probably two to three weeks of residual from that product. I’d like to use it on every acre, it’s a very good program.”

Listen to my interview with Jim here: Interview with Jim Hild

Check out photos from the event here: 2013 Monsanto Ground Breakers Media Event Photo Album

Monsanto Update on FieldScripts

fps13-fieldscriptsLast year at Farm Progress Show, Monsanto previewed FieldScripts, the company’s first product from the Integrated Farming Systems (IFS) platform. This year, we got to actually see how it worked in the field – sort of.

“Our original plans were to harvest the first FieldScripts here at the Farm Progress Show,” said FieldScripts launch lead for Monsanto Dave Rhylander at a media event on the eve of the show. When weather caused planting to be delayed in the spring, they moved to a shorter season hybrid. “Then we had that cool weather in July and early August and it just slowed everything down and we couldn’t get it harvested.”

fps13-monsanto-rhylanderEver able to adapt, Monsanto was still able to put on a good demo for the media with recently planted fields and had several Ground Breakers farmers on hand to talk about their experiences with FieldScripts this year. “We had about 150 farmers that tested this in the four states of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana,” Dave said. “We’ve had great feedback from them as far as simplicity, how it worked in the cab, and we’re very excited to hear now how the yields are going to be.” Interview with Dave Rhylander, Monsanto

Jamie and Kristyn went on the tour of the field trials and will be sharing interviews and video from company representatives and growers about both FieldScripts® and Ground Breakers® Field Trials Under Permit for Roundup Ready 2 Xtend™ soybeans.

Check out photos from the event here:
Monsanto Farm Progress Show Media Event Photo Album

Monsanto Press Release Hoax

This just goes to show that we need to be ever vigilant these days when it comes to our electronic communications.

monsanto-thumbA very official looking release came in by email today with the headline “Mexico Grants Monsanto Approval To Plant Large-Scale GM Corn Fields.” It had technical details about varieties and quotes from Monsanto and Mexican officials. Without double-checking on it, we went ahead and posted it as worded, although we did notice it had not been posted on the Monsanto website.

We were quickly notified by Monsanto that it was hoax and we immediately pulled the post down. A post on the Monsanto Blog explains that the release came from “an unidentified cyber group” that developed and posted a deceptive web page called www.monsantoglobal.com designed to appear as though it was posted by Monsanto. “This page and its related communications, including a fake news release entitled “Mexico Grants Monsanto Approval To Plant Large-Scale GM Corn Fields,” are an intentional misrepresentation and are not in any way associated with our company.” Monsanto officials further say that information on this “hoax web site and its related communication properties has been turned over to the appropriate authorities to further investigate the matter.”

We admit it – we got scammed. You can be sure that this was a lesson learned for us – check our sources before we post or tweet, just in case.

Answering Consumer Questions about GMOs

site_logoThe agricultural biotechnology companies that develop genetically modified seeds (GMO) have united to launch a broad, new initiative to provide accurate information and answer the toughest questions about GMOs and how our food is grown. GMO Answers is produced by the members of The Council for Biotechnology Information, which includes BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences LLC, DuPont, Monsanto Company and Syngenta.

ZimmCast 405This week’s ZimmCast features an interview with Fran Castle Rowland, senior manager of global brand management and media relations for BASF, about the purpose of GMOAnswers, the questions they have received so far, and just how they hope being more transparent will help educate the public about the importance of biotechnology in food production.

Listen to this week’s ZimmCast here: Providing Answers to GMO Questions

Thanks to our ZimmCast sponsors, GROWMARK, locally owned, globally strong and Monsanto, Roundup Ready Plus, for their support.

New Online Resource About GMOs

site_logoThe agricultural biotechnology companies that develop genetically modified seeds (GMO) are coming together to launch a broad, new initiative to provide accurate information and answer the toughest questions about GMOs and how our food is grown. GMO Answers is a new conversation, public Q&A, and central online resource for information on GMOs, their background, use in agriculture, and research and data in one easy-to-access public resource for the first time.

As the public discussion on GMOs continues, the scientists who develop biotech seeds along with farmers who grow them want to make information about GMOs easier to find and understand.

GMO Answers is produced by the members of The Council for Biotechnology Information, which includes BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences LLC, DuPont, Monsanto Company and Syngenta. Together, their commitment to openness and access to information is outlined in the GMO Answers five core principles.