UPDATE 2-Monsanto to spend $100 mln on W. Canada corn over 10 years

Mon Jun 24, 2013 11:49am EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba, June 24 (Reuters) - Seed developer Monsanto Co said on Monday that it would spend $100 million over the next 10 years on breeding corn for Western Canada, a move it said might change the crop makeup in a fertile region that produces big harvests of spring wheat and canola.

Monsanto said it would focus on producing corn that matures earlier than current varieties, making it a seeding option for an area of Western Canada spanning 26 million acres (10.5 million hectares).

Factoring in farmers' crop rotations, corn may annually occupy 8 million to 10 million acres of Western Canada by 2025, Monsanto said.

Western Canada farmers grow grain corn for use in ethanol plants and livestock rations on a relatively small area of 300,000 to 400,000 acres, nearly all of it in southern Manitoba.

Corn prices are attractive to Canadian farmers, but the relatively short growing season in parts of Western Canada, particularly in the top grain-growing province of Saskatchewan, has led to a focus on wheat, canola, barley, oats and a host of niche crops like mustard and lentils.

If corn catches on in Western Canada, it would continue the crop's northwestern migration from traditional growing areas in the U.S. Midwest. Corn has already changed the mix in the U.S. northern Plains states of North Dakota and South Dakota, thanks to a mix of better seed varieties, long-term warming trends and soaring profits.

Monsanto will aim to breed corn varieties that mature in 70 to 85 days. Currently, the earliest maturing variety in Monsanto's Dekalb brand needs 76 days.   Continued...