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Get ready for the eight-way stack

Agriculture.com Staff 09/18/2007 @ 7:11am

In the past couple years, jargon like triple-stack and quad-stack hybrids have rolled off the tongues of seed salesman and farmers. Now, make way for an eight-way stack called SmartStax, courtesy of Monsanto and DowAgroSciences.

The two companies announced last week that by 2010 (pending U.S. registration), U.S. farmers will be able to purchase an eight-way corn hybrid stack of the following traits:

  • Dow AgroSciences' Herculex I and Herculex RW technologies
  • Monsanto's YieldGard VT Rootworm/RR2 and YieldGard VT PRO technologies
  • Roundup Ready and Liberty Link weed control systems

The insect combo of SmartStax will protect against above-ground insects like European corn borer and emerging insects like corn earworm, fall armyworm, western bean cutworm, and black cutworm. Below-ground, it provides comprehensive protection against corn rootworm from the Herculex and YieldGard technologies. It also provides two different modes of action for weed control.

The offering is made possible by a cross-licensing agreement between the two companies. It continues a trend of seed and chemical industry competitors joining forces, one that Monsanto has particularly followed this year. Earlier this year, Monsanto announced an agreement with BASF to work together on developing hybrids and varieties with yield enhancement, cold and drought tolerant, and nematode resistant traits.

The move is consistent with Monsanto's apparent strategy of "we're going to find the best things to offer (farmer-customers), whether we create them or work with another company," says Blake Sieker, partner in The Context Network, West Des Moines, Iowa.

Farmers will gain access to one-stop trait shopping that they must now purchase in several separate packages. "The SmartStax system helps us incorporate high performing traits in high performing germplasm," says Ernesto Fajardo, U.S. crop production leader for Monsanto.

Farmers will have to buy all eight traits in the SmartStax package. "It's not a pick and choose (situation)," says Jerome Peribere, DowAgroSciences president and CEO. "It's a complete solution."

Peribere adds the agreement also enables each company to add future traits onto the SmartStax package as they are developed.

Both companies will cross-license the SmartStax system to their seed brands for a ten-year period under royalty-bearing agreements. Brands include Monsanto's DeKalb seed brand and regional seed brands sold by the company's American Seeds Inc. entity, and Dow AgroSciences' Mycogen seed corn brand.

Monsanto will represent both parties for joint third-party licensing of SmartStax. This will enable the joint licensing of SmartStax to independent seed companies through Monsanto's Holden's/Corn States business, company officials say.

You'll find out, but not right now. Monsanto and DowAgroSciences officials did not comment on pricing. So far, prices of $200 per bag or more haven't deterred farmers from buying the hottest triple stacks.

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