Monsanto, InterGrain enter wheat breeding pact
by Eric Schroeder
KENSINGTON, AUSTRALIA — Monsanto Co., St. Louis, has acquired a 19.9% interest in Australian cereal breeder InterGrain Pty Ltd., paving the way for a technology collaboration agreement between the two companies that is expected to lead to advances in wheat technology such as yield performance, disease resistance, drought tolerance and improved end-use qualities.
Under terms of the agreement, Monsanto and InterGrain will exchange certain wheat germplasm for breeding, with InterGrain gaining access to breeding technology tools and services for genotyping and marker development.
“This is a very exciting development for Australian wheat farmers, with the partnering of Australia’s leading wheat breeder and germplasm developer and the world’s No. 1 technology provider,” said Dale Baker, chairman of InterGrain. “InterGrain has been actively seeking a partner to grow our wheat breeding program for some time, and is very pleased to reach this agreement with Monsanto, the world’s leader in this regard. It will open the doors to a vast new library of germplasm and powerful technology capacity, which Australian wheat growers have not previously had access to, which we expect will translate to more rapid improvements in wheat yields and performance.”
Robb Fraley, chief technology officer at Monsanto, said the collaboration will “support the acceleration of genetic gain for wheat.”
“Monsanto has a strong history of investment in technology collaborations, and as we look for opportunities to enhance our wheat business, this is a natural fit for us,” Mr. Fraley said. “We are committed to developing advances in breeding and biotechnology to deliver improved wheat yield and productivity and are pleased to be partnering with a market leader which has demonstrated both its expertise and commitment to enhancing the productivity of the Australian grains industry.”
Longer term, the collaboration is expected to provide InterGrain with access to biotechnology traits being developed for wheat, which Monsanto would expect to introduce in the next decade, pending appropriate regulatory approvals. Monsanto is working on developing traits for wheat farmers around the globe, including drought tolerance and yield improvement.
Monsanto has been involved in wheat technology research for some time, and in 2009 acquired the WestBred U.S. wheat breeding business with the stated objective of introducing better varieties of wheat through conventional and marker-assisted breeding investments. More recently, Monsanto earlier this year announced the expansion of its yield and stress collaboration with BASF to include wheat.
In June, Monsanto and Kansas State University announced a partnership allowing both to share germplasm and technology.
Established in 2007 by the State Government of Western Australia and the Grains Research and Development Corp. (G.R.D.C.), InterGrain Pty Ltd. is a leading Australian crop breeding company with successful wheat and barley breeding programs that target the major cereal growing areas of Australia. Following Monsanto’s investment in InterGrain, the State Government of Western Australia remains the majority shareholder with the G.R.D.C. remaining a shareholder as well.