On Monday, editors were invited to tour Monsanto 's headquarters in St. Louis, Mo., and see the work the company is doing in its Asgrow soybeans , particularly in fighting major pests and diseases which can be devastating to yields. Here is a look at the research being done at Monsanto to fight these yield-robbing problems.
Like photo galleries from Farm Industry News? Subscribe to Farm Industry News Now e-newsletter to get the latest galleries and more straight to your inbox twice weekly.
PLUS - You might also like:
Soybean Cyst Nematode can be particularly hard to detect. Up to 40% of yield can be lost before a farmer may notice any above ground symptoms.
2. Phytophthora Root Rot
Phytophthora Root Rot is another major yield robber in soybeans. The damage done by Phytophthora is much more obvious on the plant than SCN.
3. Nematode DNA testing
Susannah Cooper, entomology/nematology lead, focuses on phenotyping germplasm to insect and nematode pests in controlled environments. She said there are several races of nematodes, and a member of her department can look at the DNA of a nematode from soil samples and determine its race within one day. Resistant genes can then be identified for the right fields.
4. PacBio sequencing
Monsanto owns the only Pacific Biosciences (PacBio) sequencing system that is used for plants. The other systems are used for sequencing human genes. PacBio processes and analyzes DNA data points rapidly to help Monsanto scientists find the best gene solutions to incorporate into its plants.
5. Seed Chipper
The Monsanto Seed Chipper is the company's exclusive technology that was designed and built on site in St. Louis. It removes a small chip from each soybean seed while preserving the seed's future ability to grow. The chip's DNA is then analyzed in the genotyping lab. Results tell the breeders what characteristics the plant will have at maturity, and only the best seeds continue on in their breeding programs.
6. Chipped soybean seed
This is how a soybean seed looks like after it goes through the Chipper. As a result of the chipping and analyzing process, new genetics make it to farmers' fields about two years faster than using traditional breeding methods.
7. Seed treatments
Mike Migliazzo, seed treatment scientist, demonstrates the process of coating soybean seeds with a treatment, or polymer. Over 100,000 pounds of seed went through this facility last year. Migliazzo says that approximately 70% of Monsanto's seed is treated now.
8. End result
The soybean seeds are shown here just seconds after going through the machine. They come out completely dry and are coated with the new treatment. Migliazzo said that the majority of farmers now buy seed that has been treated. Back when Acceleron was launched on soybeans in 2009, Monsanto offered the seed to growers either treated or untreated.
9. Growth chambers
Indoor growth chambers allow Monsanto to grow test plants within controlled environments. Temperature, the level of the LED lights, humidity, and more can be controlled to foster the right environment for the tests.
10. Phytophthora resistance
Nona LaFaver, research assistant, shows the process of wounding soybean seedlings with the Phytophthora Root Rot disease for testing purposes. By infecting different soybean varieties with the disease, she is able to later identify which varieties are most resistant.
This variety held up well to the Phytophthora, as shown by its strong, healthy root system.
12. Not so resistant
And this is an example of a variety that did not hold up as well to the disease.
13. Testing in chambers
These soybean plants are all being tested within a growth chamber for their resistance to Phytophthora.
Monsanto has 2.2 acres of greenhouses at their headquarters, located on the top floors of the facility's buildings, where they are able to grow a variety of test crops within controlled environments. The tour guide said that on a cloudy night, you can see the glow of the greenhouses from far away.