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Monsanto recreates drought conditions

Last year's drought resulted in severe crop stress for farmers throughout the Midwest. Now, Monsanto is simulating that challenging environment in a series of stress test plots designed to measure corn root performance and insect control under extremely dry conditions.

More than a dozen dry weather stress test plots are being monitored this season at Monsanto research facilities and on grower farms across the Corn Belt, including sites in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota and Ohio. At each location, a 40-by-50-foot tent has been erected over a 24-row corn test plot to prevent some of the plants from receiving rain.

The tents have a clear vinyl top so that the plants can receive sunlight. As part of the test, corn rootworms have been introduced into the plots. Test plots have also been established in Colorado and Nebraska, but without the need for tents because of the naturally drier weather conditions there.

According to Dave Rhylander, Monsanto Director of Traits, some of the corn plants are treated with soil or seed applied insecticides and some with the in-plant insect protection of YieldGard® Plus or YieldGard Rootworm Corn. During last season's severe drought, YieldGard Plus Corn had an average yield advantage of 15 bushels per acre compared to corn protected with conventional insecticides.

"What we found last season is that in-plant technology resulted in better-protected corn roots, which enabled the plants to more effectively absorb moisture and nutrients even under severely dry conditions," Rhylander said. "The purpose of this season's stress test plots is to model what Illinois farmers experienced last year by illustrating how in-plant protection can reduce the stress of dry conditions, since weather is one of the biggest risk factors that farmers face."

Moisture probes will be used to measure root absorption of sub-soil moisture. Probes and sensors will also measure wind speed and rainfall outside the tented area, and relay data back to a database every 15 minutes. In addition to rootworm pressure, Rhylander said the test program will also monitor herbicide and corn borer stress.

Last year's drought resulted in severe crop stress for farmers throughout the Midwest. Now, Monsanto is simulating that challenging environment in a series of stress test plots designed to measure corn root performance and insect control under extremely dry conditions.

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