News | April 25, 2017
Plant Breeding Helps Farmers Have Better Harvests
Anyone who has a backyard garden knows that growing food can be challenging. Some years, it’s really dry, and even when you water in the morning and in the evening, your garden still looks thirsty. Other years, an unknown disease or insect sets in — your plants look feeble, and they produce fewer harvestable fruits and vegetables. After all the day-in and day-out work, this outcome is quite discouraging — knowing for all your effort, you’ll probably harvest less, and it likely won’t taste as good.
I grew up on a family farm in Illinois, and I can tell you farmers of all sizes — backyard gardeners, community gardeners and large farmers — live with the challenges of plant diseases and insect pests every day. It’s one reason I decided to become a plant breeder. Some things are truly uncontrollable, like rainfall, severe storms and seasonal temperatures. But increasingly, innovations in plant science are offering farmers more tools to manage the challenges presented by climate change, plant disease, insects and more.
This is my life’s work — finding new ways plant breeding can deliver better and more productive harvests. One way to do this is by protecting plants from disease and insects.
Sam Eathington checks on a corn crop nearing harvest. Sam has been a breeder for more than 20 years at Monsanto.
Recently, Monsanto announced our annual research and development pipeline update, where we share advancements across our business, including: plant breeding, biotechnology, crop protection, ag microbials, ag biologicals and precision agriculture. The research in our pipeline can help large and small farmers.
A significant portion of our research is focused on breeding plants to withstand diseases and insects better. This research ends up in crops like peppers, where there are challenges like phytophthora root rot. This is a disease that can wipe out a pepper crop, whether it’s in a backyard garden or in a 10-acre field grown for supermarkets. New products like a phytophthora-resistant pepper, which is close to being commercialized and in farmers’ fields, stand a better chance against the disease, which means farmers may be able to have more peppers at harvest.
Monsanto vegetable breeders have used their expertise to breed pepper plants that resist this devastating disease better than other pepper varieties. There are several other crops where our plant breeding efforts are realized, and you can get the full details of our research and development efforts on www.monsanto.com/innovations/research-development/.
Breeding innovations are what get me out of bed in the morning. The world is growing at a fast clip — 9.6 billion people by 2050 — and it will take the use of many solutions to ensure everyone has enough food. It’s my job and the jobs of 20,000 people at Monsanto to help all farmers — from a few square feet in the backyard to a few thousand acres in Illinois — to have more successful harvests and bring quality food to our plates.
Sam is Monsanto’s global plant breeding lead. He is responsible for leading the research efforts to bring better seeds with better genetics to farmers. He has been a Monsanto plant breeder for more than 20 years.