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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Monsanto: More testing will follow GM maize release in SA

The new drought-tolerant maize trait, MON 87460, has been approved by the Executive Council of the GMO Act for conditional general release in the Republic of South Africa. This trait will be sold under the brand name, “DroughtGard.”

Kobus Steenekamp
Kobus Steenekamp. Photo credit: www.agrieco.net

“The approval for general release is a significant step in bringing this valuable technology to all farmers in South Africa,” said Kobus Steenekamp, Managing Director for Monsanto in South Africa. “The approval provides access to another tool that can help farmers to sustainably manage their risk on farm. This will now allow Monsanto to proceed to the next stage of more extensive testing with DroughtGard under commercial circumstances, and to stack it with other existing traits. The next few seasons will provide an important opportunity to do extensive testing and demonstrations to help farmers learn how this can become part of their farming system and help minimise the risk of drought.”

The DroughtGard trait is designed to help the maize plant use less water when drought stress occurs, creating the opportunity to conserve soil moisture and help minimise yield loss under drought conditions. Drought or water stress, is one of the major factors that can impact on yields in South Africa. There are no simple solutions to ensure crop survival and yield in a drought. It takes a systems based approach using all the tools available to help minimise drought damage. Farmers must think about a system that incorporates best agronomic practices together with using the best adapted varieties suited for their farm. The new drought trait alone cannot guarantee success, but farmers can use it as another tool in their systems-based approach to help give their maize crop the best chance to survive and thrive in dry climates prone to drought.

It is anticipated, if progress stays on track, that farmers in South Africa will be able to buy and plant hybrids combining the new drought tolerant trait with existing insect-protection and weed control traits, within a few years pending final regulatory approvals for the stacked hybrids.

This application for general release of the MON 87460 trait was made by Monsanto, but Monsanto would also like to acknowledge the contribution of its public sector partners, particularly the Agricultural Research Council of South Africa, in testing the performance of MON87460 under the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) Project. The WEMA project is a humanitarian project led by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation that aims to develop and deploy improved maize hybrids to benefit smallholder farmers in South Africa and other partner countries.

“Initial results from our regulatory trials are encouraging and we believe that DroughtGard hybrids will in future become an important tool for farmers to help mitigate yield loss caused by drought stress. This trait is the latest example of DEKALB bringing leading innovations to farmers,” according to Steenekamp.

According to Magda du Toit, the Monsanto South Africa spokesperson, the organisation is committed to bringing a broad range of solutions to help nourish our growing world.

“We produce seeds for fruits, vegetables and key crops – such as corn, soybeans, and cotton – that help farmers have better harvests while using water and other important resources more efficiently. We work to find sustainable solutions for soil health, help farmers use data to improve farming practices and conserve natural resources, and provide crop protection products to minimise damage from pests and disease. Through programmes and partnerships, we collaborate with farmers, researchers, nonprofit organisations, universities and others to help tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges,” du Toit stated.


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