Monsanto and BASF scientists say they have identified a gene that could help maintain yields for corn by making them more resistant to drought conditions.
While the regulatory approval process may limit the availability of the new strain until 2012 in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the E.U. and Colombia, the corn would take advantage of the cspB gene, which allows some bacteria to continue growth even under stressful conditions, according to the companies.
"The development of this trait demonstrates the strength of our robust discovery engine which is fueled by our ongoing investment in R&D," said Robert Fraley, Monsanto CTO. "It also reflects our commitment to our farmer customers and a recognition of the investment they make in our products. Drought-tolerant corn will be another tool with which we can help them meet the challenges facing agriculture today."
Monsanto says there are about 10 to 13 million acres slated for corn production in the U.S. which may be affected by drought conditions, and in field tests the modified product was able to improve yields by up to 10 percent.
Drought-tolerant corn technology is part of the R&D and commercialization collaboration in plant biotechnology between BASF and Monsanto, announced in March 2007. The two companies are jointly contributing $1.5 billion over the life of the collaboration, which is aimed at developing higher-yielding crops and crops more tolerant to adverse environmental conditions such as drought.