Nothing sounded sweeter to the ear and more macho in the early 1970s than the rumbling of a souped-up engine in an Oldsmobile 442 muscle car with dual exhaust. The 455-cubic-inch V-8 engine purred in complete harmony at standstill until a stomp on the accelerator launched a lion’s roar and a long stretch of rubber on the pavement.

The same type of harmonization of integral components are required for global agriculture to feed the world population expected to top a record 8 to 9 billion people around 2050.

Robert Fraley, Monsanto’s executive vice president and chief technical officer, says three major sectors of agricultural technology must be integrated to double or triple crop yields in the decades ahead to meet the rapid growth in consumer demand.

Fraley says these advancements include plant breeding, biotechnology, and agronomic practice improvements including GPS.

Fraley discussed this technological three-legged stool during the 2011 American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers’ annual meeting in Phoenix, Ariz., in November.

With the unison of technology, Fraley says, “We will see more changes in farming in the next 20 years than we have probably seen in the last 50 years … I can’t image a more incredible period to be in agriculture.”

Plant breeding

Plant breeding is a key cog in the wheel to generate monumental change within the plant. Monsanto has genome sequenced almost every gene in corn, soybeans, and cotton over the last five to seven years.

“This has turned the breeding world on its ear,” Fraley said. “The way we breed today with tools and technologies is different than five years ago. Breeding is going through tremendous change.”

Monsanto has purchased about 30 seed companies around the world to advance plant breeding.