Market News & Headlines >> The Technification of Agriculture

With the need to double food production by 2050, we are in one of the most interesting and exciting times in agriculture, Robb Fraley, chief technology office for Monsanto, told the Brock Agricultural Economics Symposium in New Orleans today. “Agriculture is in the center of some of the most important discussions taking place today, including food security, energy, water and climate change,” he noted. “Don’t sell a piece of land,” he advised farmers. “The need for land and agricultural is only going to become more critical.”

Fraley outlined some of the new approaches in seed technology, including RNAi, which identifies and blocks specific genes that are critical to the life of pests, and use of microbes, such as bacteria, fungi and molds in what essentially is a way of providing probiotics to plants. But while these approaches are exciting, other forms of technology application are just as promising.

This year, Monsanto is launching FieldScripts, its specific variable recommendations for each field on a farm. “We see fields where the spread between the top and bottom yielding portions is 100 bu. of corn,” he said. Using about 70 soil subsoil and field parameters combined with weather records and forecasts acquired via Monsanto’s purchase of Climate Corp., the program aims to identify the best variety and agronomic practices/inputs for each part of the field.

It also is marketing “Climate Pro” and “Harvest Advisor” services which help farmers decide which fields to work in on a given day based on weather conditions, and predict maturity to better schedule harvest.

Without a doubt, technology is going to be a source of competitive edge in the years ahead – and will make the next generation, with its computer savvy and comfort with data – a key to a farm’s success as well.