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Triple-stack corn seeds – which enable resistance to corn borer, rootworm and herbicide – will occupy about 34-35 million acres of U.S. cropland in 2009, says Robb Fraley, a Monsanto Co. executive.

Monsanto estimates the plantings, which are projected to increase 17% over 2008, to represent about a third of the U.S. total crop.

Corn yields have doubled since 1970 and are poised to double again in the next 20 years, says Robb Fraley, Monsanto's executive vice president and chief technology officer, at a Canaccord Adams agricultural industry conference in Toronto.

He says new yield trials offering side-by-side comparisons of Monsanto's triple-stack to other products represented a 9.6-bu./acre yield advantage. The products also offer greater drydown time, which enables a more efficient harvest, he says.

Triple-stack seeds mark the beginning of a "renaissance" in plant breeding progress, Fraley says.

By 2010, a SmartStax product will combine eight different genes targeted to blanket 65 million acres, he says. The company will move into 20-gene stacks within the next decade. A doubling of soybean and cotton yields is also targeted for 2030.

The products now on the market represent the tip of technological iceberg, Fraley says. Genes under development for use in soybean crops are capable of rendering a soybean oil akin to olive oil, he says. Also in the works are products offering greater drought tolerance and improved nutritional profiles.

Last week, Brett Begemann, executive vice president of global commercial for Monsanto, told Dow Jones Newswires that the company may be ready to commercialize a drought-resistant corn seed variety in the U.S. as early as 2012.

The technology allows corn leaves to stay open during the day in hot, dry weather instead of curling shut and putting growth on hold, Begemann says.

Monsanto will be marketing its "water-use efficiency" corn seeds first in the U.S., but drought resistance is something that's needed around the world, Begemann says.

Editor’s note: Richard Brock, Corn & Soybean Digest’s marketing editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.