Monsanto Company and Evogene Ltd. have announced a collaboration to improve nitrogen use efficiency in corn, soybeans, canola and cotton. Under the agreement, Monsanto gains exclusive rights to a number of genes discovered by Evogene that help plants maintain yield with lower applications of nitrogen.

Monsanto will work to evaluate the use of those genes in its research and development pipeline.

The potential candidates from Evogene are complementary to the nitrogen utilization genes already in testing in Monsanto's pipeline and could provide the opportunity to further a series of upgrades for this target area. The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Nitrogen fertilizer represents one of the largest input costs in agriculture; it accounts for approximately one-fifth of the operating costs for a corn producer. In the United States alone, farmers spend more than $3 billion annually on nitrogen fertilizer application of corn fields, with plants typically absorbing less than half of the nitrogen fertilizer applied.