THE VERY FIRST drought-resistant maize cultivar will soon be with us. It will be another step on the path to producing enough healthy food on less land for a burgeoning population. That not only guarantees essential food supplies but also fair price increases for the consumer by bringing the supply more in line with the increasing demand.
Kobus Steenkamp, agricultural chemistry and biotechnology marketing manager for Monsanto, says the next generation of genetically modified products from his company (a leader in the field of biotechnology) has arrived. “This will double farmers’ crops by 2030 – and that means maize, soya beans and cotton.”
The first experiments with droughtresistant maize in South Africa – planted in the Hopetown district this season – were a huge success. By making more efficient use of the available water an 8% to 10% larger crop is the norm, which ensures an approximately R172 800 bigger profit on the average 300ha maize farm. In dry years the difference will be even greater.
Depending on regulatory approval, the first maize cultivar with multiple genes that will also be resistant to stemborers and rootworm diseases will also be on the market by 2010.
Steenkamp says that with conservative estimates of crop increases of only 7% to 11%, farmers can earn an extra R132 000/100ha of soya beans in normal years with the new drought-resistant cultivars. In dry years the difference could be dramatic.
“And then there’s other exciting research under way that will, among others, ensure soya beans with omega 3 fatty acids and high-stability soya oil that eliminate trans fats and reduce the saturated fat content of soya oil.”