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BUSINESS & SEEDS: Monsanto training tour for EU farmers







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TITLE:  SOME EUROPEAN FARMERS SEEKING BIOTECHNOLOGY

SOURCE: Farm & Ranch Guide, USA

AUTHOR: Andrea Johnson

URL:    http://www.farmandranchguide.com/articles/2007/07/05/ag_news/regional_news/region01.txt

DATE:   05.07.2007

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SOME EUROPEAN FARMERS SEEKING BIOTECHNOLOGY

FAIRIBAULT, Minn. - With only limited herbicides and insecticides available for corn production, some northern European farmers want biotechnology tools for their operations.

Those tools could include glyphosate tolerance, European corn borer protection and corn rootworm protection.

Twelve farmers from Sweden, Lithuania and Denmark traveled to the United States recently, courtesy of Monsanto, to see how biotech traits are used.

The farmers traveled to three states - Georgia, Missouri and Minnesota.

”Without Roundup Ready corn, they are just looking for some answers to work with the herbicides they have to use that are still not getting the job done,” said Don Diehl, Monsanto trait and seed representative in Minnesota. ”They are looking for a more efficient, more productive system.”

Before visiting the states, the farmers had all expressed an interest in learning more about biotechnology. Some of them are raising test plots of Roundup Ready corn for Monsanto in their countries.

The farmers who took part in this tour hope to expand their corn acres, but they have only limited weed control options.

”They wanted to come out here and talk to farmers and growers and get some real down-to-earth information and take that information back to build a case for biotechnology,” said Diehl.

Selling harvested corn with biotech traits is not yet fully approved in Europe.

While in Minnesota, the group stopped at the Paul and Bonnie Bauer farm east of Faribault.

Paul has a hog-finishing operation, his son has a dairy/milking enterprise, and the Bauers raise continuous corn.

It’s Bauer’s goal to raise 300-bushel corn/acre across his fields. He’s using DEKALB corn hybrids in pursuit of that goal.

In 2006, Bauer came close to reaching his goal with one corn field averaging about 270 bushels/acre.

At Bauer’s farm, Jeff Coultas, Monsanto technology product manager of Northfield, Minn., explained the ways that farmers in the upper Midwest currently use biotechnology.

Biotechnology traits for insect and herbicide protection have allowed U.S. farmers to control the pests where they couldn’t before without handling insecticides. This offers greater safety and ease of use.

Coultas explained that U.S. farmers quickly adapted benefits of Bt technology. Prior to 1996, most U.S. farmers had uncontrolled European corn borers (ECB) in corn, for instance.

It was expensive to monitor ECB, and it was difficult to treat corn for the insect. Most applications offer only about 70 percent control.

”The Bt protein has been a boon across the board, and there are choices for Bt protection against corn borer,” said Coultas. ”Farmers began to notice that yields were better than anticipated. We went from a situation where corn borer was an unrecognized problem to now a majority of what we sell in Minnesota has the ECB protection trait in it.”

The European farmers also learned that U.S. growers have readily adopted Roundup Ready corn as well as Roundup Ready soybeans.

”Roundup Ready corn is very easy, very cost effective and very effective for weed control,” said Coultas. ”We take away a lot of the other herbicides we would use - that the plant would have to metabolize and devote energy and resources to - that create herbicide stress. We’ve pulled those out of equation, and we have another increment to gain yield potential.”

In the near future, Monsanto hopes to offer new biotechnology events to U.S. farmers, Coultas added.

The agricultural company anticipates adding a second Bt protein event soon.

The next Bt protein event will affect insects differently than the current Bt protein. Using the second Bt protein - plus planting non-Bt corn in refuges - should help keep insects from developing resistance to Bt.

Monsanto also hopes to release a drought gene depending on regulatory approvals.

And in the not-too-distant future, Monsanto wants to release a gene that could improve nitrogen utilization in plants.

Coultas told the European farmers that U.S. farmers appreciate the simplicity of using biotechnology products. Biotechnology also allows farmers to grow more acres of crops with less labor.

”There are a lot of benefits,” he said. ”The more you make the cropping system simple and effective, the better the acceptance of biotechnology.”


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