China turns to Monsanto, others to boost corn yields

Country looking to be self-sufficient as meat, feed demand grow

With China’s corn demand growing steadily, the country’s government has approved the use of more hybrid seed varieties like those from Monsanto Co., DuPont Pioneer and Syngenta AG to boost yields, according to reports.

China imported a record 5.5 million metric tons of corn in 2011–2012, but with the new hybrid seeds some domestic farmers are already reporting yields at double the average five metric tons per hectare. China’s corn crop is forecast at a record 200 million metric tons for the current year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. ”My view is that within the next 7–10 years the gap in terms of demand and supply will probably be reduced to close to zero if the technology can reach the farmer,” said Diego Diz, China corn marketing lead for Monsanto.

China is under significant pressure to meet the growing demand for meat, and the corn to feed the animals that supply it. ”Over the next 15 years, China needs 80–100 million metric tons of corn, additional corn, a year,” said Hardeep Grewal, Syngenta’s head of corn marketing for the Asia-Pacific. “It means yields have to go up 50–60 percent.” Hybrids have modernized planting as some seed firms guarantee 95 percent germination. Crop density, which has a direct impact on production, is up by around half to 60,000 plants per hectare from five years ago, though still lagging behind the U.S. level of around 80,000. New varieties also mean reduced fertilizer use and improved water efficiency — a critical factor in the increasingly water-stressed northeast. 

By 2025, much of China’s northeast will become either severely or extremely water stressed, according to the Aqueduct Water Risk Atlas managed by the World Resources Institute in Washington. Water shortage was one factor cited by China’s agriculture minister as a threat to the country’s ability to feed itself, along with growing land and labor shortages. ”To ensure grain security … We will breed a new type of agricultural player and develop proper-scale mechanized farming,” said Han Changfu at a session of the ruling Communist Party congress.