Monsanto buys wheat germoplasm specialist

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Vice president

Monsanto has bought WestBred for $45m in move that will expand its seeds and traits portfolio to include wheat.

WestBred is a company specialising in wheat germoplasm, the crop’s genetic material, with breeding capabilities and commercial operations that will form the heart of Monsanto’s wheat portfolio.

Long-term investment

The acquisition is a long-term investment for Monsanto, which does not expect the deal to be accretive to earnings for five to ten years.

In time, Monsanto said the deal would enable farmers to benefit from the company’s drought, disease, and pest resistant technologies.

“The US wheat industry has come together to call for new technology investment, and we believe we have game-changing technologies -- like our drought-tolerance and improved-yield traits -- that can meaningfully address major challenges wheat growers face every season,”​ said Carl Casale, executive vice president of global strategy and operations for Monsanto.

“Through WestBred, we'll be able to deliver advances in breeding and biotechnology to deliver a step-change in yield.”

Ron Ueland, president of WestBred, said the business move would spark innovation and improve the competitiveness of its wheat germoplasm products. He said: “We believe that linking up with a company like Monsanto with a proven track record as an innovator is the best route to accelerate the development of new technologies.”

Looking for partners

Apart from drawing on its own expertise, Monsanto will also be seeking public and private partnerships to help deliver technology improvement in wheat for farmers.

It said the acquisition of WestBred would create: “a springboard for new partnerships and collaboration opportunities that create additional value for farmers.”

Projects on the horizon

Running through specific projects that are planned following the acquisition, Monsanto said it sees an opportunity to increase yields while reducing use of water, land, and energy.

Initially this means, using Westbred’s germoplasm as a foundation and applying Monsanto’s expertise in conventional and marker-assisted breeding tools.

These seeds will then serve as the foundation for the development of new biotechnology traits, which will initially focus on drought tolerance, nitrogen use and higher yield. Biotechnology will be a longer-term prospect within the company’s 8 to 10 year development cycle.

Monsanto will also be looking at herbicide tolerance and disease resistance opportunities but its plans do not include further development of the first-generation Roundup Ready trait in wheat.

To help Monsanto through these developments, the company will form a Wheat Development Advisory Group made up of representatives throughout the wheat value chain. They will provide feedback on proposed traits and suggest attributes that are needed to improve the productivity and sustainability of wheat production.

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