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New sugarcane varieties by Monsanto expand biotechnology in the industry

Photo: Monsanto's Research Center in Sao Jose dos Campos,
São Paulo State (Credit: Monsanto/Advertising)

With the recent launch of three commercial varieties of sugarcane, Monsanto has made its presence in the Brazilian sugarcane industry more evident and reinforced the importance of specialized biotechnology companies in the industry. The assessment was made by the Emissions and Technology Consultant at the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA), Alfred Szwarc, following the introduction of Monsanto varieties CV 7231, CV 7870 and CV 6654 on February 10.

"This is a new generation of cane, Monsanto’s first set of products developed for the sugarcane industry. They represent important advancements and valuable technological innovation in an industry where global companies like Amyris, Novozymes and Syngenta are already active, along with a respected Brazilian institution, the Center for Sugarcane Technology (CTC)," said Szwarc.

He added that the three varieties developed by Monsanto can produce yields of up to 100 tons of cane per hectare (ha), a significant productivity gain compared to recent yields in South-Central Brazil. In the 2011-2012 harvest, some growers reported yields below 70 tons per hectare because of weather problems and a lack of crop renewal.

"These new varieties meet market demands in Brazil for productivity and adaptability to various field management methods" said the Head of the Sugarcane Business at Monsanto in Brazil, José Carlos Carramate. Interviewed by the Agência Estado news service, he explained that Monsanto’s entry in the commercial sugarcane arena must be gradual: "We are starting from zero and it’s difficult to make predictions because the period of transition and crop renewal is slow.”

Carramate wouldn’t say precisely how much the company invested to come up with the new varieties, but did reveal that “for less than R$30 million (about US$16.7 million) or R$35 million (about US$19.4 million) per year, a company cannot develop two or three new varieties." CanaVialis, a company created in 2003 and acquired by Monsanto in 2008 for US$290 million, developed the new varieties over a nine year period.

Through CanaVialis, U.S.-based Monsanto is currently handling 70 clients in Brazil, including several sugarcane industry groups. The company also produces corn, soy, cotton and vegetable seeds as well as herbicides. Monsanto closed 2011 with total revenues of R$2.8 billion (about US$1.5 billion) from its Brazilian operations.

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