Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Super Bowl of Farming

The Farm Progress Show, billed as the Super Bowl of Farming, is held every two years in nearby Decatur, IL. I spent an afternoon there this past week seeing the newest agricultural technology and meeting a few old friends from my days in the seed business.

My observation is that while the show has gotten much larger, there didn’t seem to be as many people attending as when we were exhibiting in the early 80s. But, then again, there aren’t as many farmers today as there were then. However, the technology revolution in agriculture is simply astounding.

I got a chance to tour Monsanto’s research exhibit to see what technologies are in the pipeline for the leader in seed technology. They continue to “push the envelop” with higher yields; gene traits for herbicides, insects and diseases; and food quality improvement. Nitrogen fixation in corn looks like their next big winner, but the one that really catches my fancy, is their drought tolerant gene for corn.

This new technology, which won’t be released for at least five years, has the potential to dramatically expand where corn is grown while also giving farmers more assurance of being able to raise a crop without worry of a complete failure due to drought. It also will dramatically cut the need for irrigation water, allowing that water to be used for human consumption.

Right after my tour, a group which included the CEO of ADM was touring the Monsanto research plot. Some of her entourage didn’t look too comfortable in the 98 degree heat. They really should have lost their suits prior to the tour.

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