SAO PAULO (DTN) -- The build-up to the global commercial launch of Intacta RR2 PRO, Monsanto's new Roundup soybean technology, in Brazil was worthy of one of the telenovelas for which the South American country is so famous.
But the actual rollout has been less spectacular with many farmers opting to wait and see how the first harvest goes before committing fully to the new technology.
"I took part in the Intacta tests, but I am not planting everything I could this year. I want to see first," said Enio Pedde, who used it on about 10% of his soy acres on his farm in Marechal Candido Rondon, western Parana.
The launch of Monsanto's second-generation Roundup Ready beans was highly anticipated after the runaway success of the original genetically engineered technology.
The new seeds stack insect resistance on top of Roundup's glyphosate resistance and, the company said, can increase yields by up to 10% in the pest-heavy environment of Brazilian fields.
But the lead-up to the launch was turbulent.
First, farm leaders accused Monsanto of bad faith when the company said it would only allow farmers access to Intacta if legal disputes over RR1 royalties were ended. Then there was the suspense over whether China would approve the technology in time for 2013-14 planting.
Chinese approval finally came in June, leaving only two months until the start of the 2013-14 season. But after two years of controlled tests, seed companies had a significant store of RR2 seeds at their disposal.
Monsanto and the other eight licensed companies offered 2.8 million bags of Intacta, divided into 38 varieties, enough to cover 6.1 million acres, or approximately 8% of Brazil's total planted area.
With soybean planting now virtually complete in Mato Grosso and Parana, two key producing states, it has become clear that Intacta seeds will be left over, according to seed producers and cooperatives.
"Most farmers have opted for a cautious approach and planted only a few plots with Intacta," said Andreia Bernabe, executive director at the Mato Grosso Seed Producers Association (APROSMAT).
The caution is understandable as Intacta seeds are more expensive. For, while RR1 soybeans are royalty-free this season, Monsanto is charging R$115 per hectare ($21 per acre) on Intacta.
Meanwhile, the 38 varieties weren't sufficient to cover conditions in all regions. According to Rafael Furlanetto, an agronomist at the Cocamar cooperative in northern Parana, the Intacta seeds available weren't well adapted to conditions in his region, and RR1 was a better bet this year.
With a quarter of Brazil's 2013-14 soybean area still to be planted, Monsanto said it's too early to talk about demand for RR2, but doesn't deny that seeds may be left over.
Despite the slow start, if the seeds deliver on Monsanto's promises, nobody in the seed industry doubts Intacta acreage will grow quickly in the coming years.
"It was the same when Roundup was first introduced officially. In the start, purchases were slow, but they soon picked up," said APROSMAT's Bernabe.
Roundup Ready dominates the Brazilian soybean market, just as it does in the U.S. and Argentina. The technology was present in 89% of plantings in 2012-13. Monsanto estimates that RR2 will replace RR1 on 80% of that area.
Alastair Stewart can be reached at email@example.com
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