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On the road with Monsanto's Mobile Technology Unit

This summer, there's a 53-foot long tractor-trailer that packs some different cargo than what most semi-trucks carry.

It's Monsanto's Mobile Technology Unit (MTU) -- a theatre and laboratory exhibit on wheels -- that starts traveling across the United States this week. The MTU, which contains 1,000 feet of exhibit space, is a way for Monsanto to bring its technology story directly to rural communities and farmers, say company officials.

"We spend $2 million a day on new product development and research," says Jim Zimmer, vice president-U.S. branded business for Monsanto. The MTU is one way of bringing that message directly to farmers, he adds.

The MTU will make an estimated 40 stops in its first year across the United States. Monsanto plans to invite local agricultural leaders and current and potential farmer-customers to the tours.

Monsanto has enlisted NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, who grew up on an Iowa farm, to narrate an opening video in the MTU. The tour then moves into an exhibit area that highlights Monsanto's research efforts. Tour participants will be able to participate in hands-on presentations including advanced robotic systems and crop analytics.

Growers will be able to see a demonstration on how Monsanto's crop analytics team scans over 3 million corn seeds each year in an MRI machine. This analyzes the oil content of corn to produce higher quality grain.

The MTU also contains information about new Monsanto products in the pipeline. Some include:

  • Omega-3 soybeans
    Omega-3 is a heart-healthy oil contained in some fatty fish like salmon. "Fish get omega-3 oil from sea algae, so we bypassed the fish and went to the algae (to obtain trait genes)," says Gary Barton, a Monsanto MTU tour guide.
  • Drought-tolerant soybeans
    These soybeans -- which have yielded nine to 14% above current conventional ones under drought stress -- will be on the market early in the next decade if all goes according to plan.
  • Roundup RReady2Yield soybeans
    These soybeans, which contain the same weed control and crop safety benefits as current Roundup Ready technology, have an added seven to 11% yield enhancement over current Roundup Ready products, according to Monsanto officials.
  • VecTran technology
    This combines multiple genes in a single gene insertion site. This results in a cleaner and more natural transformation process. "It has rifle-like efficiency," says Bill Kosinski, an MTU tour guide.
  • Dicamba-resistant soybeans
    Dicamba, a common component of weed control in corn, will also be able to be used in soybeans when these soybeans are marketed to farmers sometime after the turn of the next decade.

    This summer, there's a 53-foot long tractor-trailer that packs some different cargo than what most semi-trucks carry.

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