By Catherine Wolf, KWMU
St. Louis, MO –
Monsanto scientists said they've developed the first drought-resistant corn plants by adding the naturally occurring cspB gene to corn DNA. The stress-resistant gene is found in bacteria used for making foods like fermented soybean pastes.
Mark Lawson is a project manager at St. Louis-based Monsanto. He said because the gene is good at managing stress, it overrides the plants' natural inclination to stop growing when there isn't enough water.
"It helps the plant maintain growth and development longer when drought situations occur and that improved growth and development end up leading to a yield increase when you harvest the crop."
Monsanto initially plans to sell the seeds to U.S. farmers, but Lawson said they could eventually be used in other drought-stricken countries.
"Water deficiency is an ongoing issue and to help those people both improve the overall yield that they have and the stability of the corn hybrids that they grow."
Lawson said U.S. farmers could expect to get an additional six to 10 bushels per acre.
Monsanto still needs regulatory approval for its seeds, which it hopes to begin selling in 2012.