2005 R&D 100 Winner
The purpose and promise of biotech research is that living organisms can be enhanced and grown in a non-toxic environment. A team of researchers at the Monsanto Co. in St. Louis, Mo., has taken that axiom to heart in their development of the first hybrid biotechnology-based corn with built-in protection against specific insect pests called rootworms. These pests feed on the root systems of corn, depriving the plant of moisture and soil nutrients and resulting in substantially reduced yields. Conventional methods for controlling these pests have been in multiple applications of expensive chemical insecticides.

A non-chemical solution that some farmers have used is to rotate the crops with non-affected soybeans, thus starving the next generation of rootworms. Unfortunately, some rootworms have evolved to offset this solution by laying eggs that take two years to hatch, just when the rotation period is back again for corn plantings.

Monsanto’s YieldGard Rootworm contains a protein derived from a common soil microorganism called Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The protein is very specific, targeting only the corn rootworm pest. It does not affect beneficial insects and is safe for human and animal consumption. Also, by being applied to the seed, the hybrid plants have season-long protection against the pests that are built into the seed, resulting in less need for applications of additional pesticides to control the pests.

YieldGard results in crop yields that are about 8% greater than those treated with a leading soil-applied insecticide. In addition, YieldGard is much easier to use and there’s no extra equipment or applications issues.

Hybrid biotechnology-based corn

Monsanto Co.