New Monsanto Seed with Fungus Coating

Monsanto recently revealed their newest product: a maize seed pre-coated with microscopic fungi that promote plant growth. This is the first commercial product to result from the partnership between Monsanto and Novozymes.

The fungal inoculant is called Acceleron B-300 SAT. It contains spores of the soil fungus Penicillium bilaiae, which promotes plant growth by enhancing the uptake of phosphate. The spores can remain viable on the seeds for up to 2 years after application. It increases maize yield by around 3 bushels per acre (2%). Monsanto plans to add it to all of its seeds sold in the US for the 2017 growing season. The company may potentially extend it to other markets in the future, depending on results from the first season.

This treatment is significant, because simply adding the fungal inoculant increases yields by an amount equivalent to the expected increase from adding an entirely new gene to a genetically modified crop. Also, this is the first time that a living biological component has been added to the collection of chemicals that coat maize seeds sold by Monsanto. Prior to the release of this new seed coating, farmers had to add their own treatment once they had purchased seeds, if they wanted growth-promoting fungi.

The expected income for farmers is in the hundreds of millions of dollars, if yields increase and sales go as planned up until 2025.

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