Monsanto to build, expand Prairie canola facilities

Seed and chemical company Monsanto’s canola breeding and research work in Western Canada are to move into a new facility in Winnipeg and expanded quarters in Saskatoon.

Details were announced Monday in Winnipeg for the new Monsanto Canada Plant Breeding Centre, to be sited next to the company’s current Canadian head office facility at the University of Manitoba’s SmartPark

The new, 29,000-square foot Winnipeg breeding centre is expected to include office space, labs and greenhouses and house the majority of the breeding work for Monsanto’s “rapidly growing” canola business, the company said in a release.

The company expects to spend about $10 million building the facility and another $2 million in related capital costs.

About 40 staff involved in line development, breeding support functions and the canola breeding management team will work at the new site which will also include laboratory facilities for all canola quality analytics, double haploid breeding and plant pathology.

Plant cultivation facilities such as growth chambers, soil preparation areas and warehouse space will also form part of the facility design, the company said.

The company, which spent $4 million to relocate its head office building to SmartPark in 2005, said it plans to build the new breeding centre to LEED Silver certification for energy efficiency and sustainability in building construction.

“The investment at SmartPark will allow us to increase synergies between the breeding, product development, supply and commercial aspects of our business to ensure we deliver on the pipeline of new, beneficial crop technologies for our farm customers,” Ryan Baldwin, Monsanto Canada’s seed and traits lead, said in the company’s release Monday.

Tests go west

Many of the canola hybrids developed by the breeding group are to be tested and advanced at the company’s new Crop Technology Research Centre (CTRC) near Saskatoon, the company said. The CTRC will also now manage all the company’s canola trait development and field testing.

The company on Monday also announced details of its $3 million expansion project at the CTRC, a project which began in spring 2008 when Monsanto bought 159 acres of previously leased land. The project has now gone on to include design and construction of a 3,600-square-foot research farm office with “associated infrastructure.”

“This commitment to new infrastructure is just the beginning,” said Cory McArthur, Monsanto Canada’s marketing director for canola and crop protection, in a release Monday.

“We have ramped up our investment in canola over the past five years and we are already seeing some top-performing new DeKalb hybrids like DKL 72-65RR and 72-55RR hitting the market,” he said, noting it expects to see “continued genetic gains” in its breeding program going forward.

Monsanto Canada’s current canola research and development budget runs at over $20 million a year, the company said Monday.

Its program, it said, is now focused on support for its Genuity canola trait business; maximizing return on investment in canola hybrids through its DeKalb brand; and creating a “new germplasm and agronomic trait package,” including work on canola traits relating to improved yield, nitrogen use efficiency and drought tolerance.

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