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Faster Efforts

Gene editing and data science are poised to make an impact on agriculture, the Wall Street Journal reports. It spoke with both Hugh Grant, the chair and chief executive of Monsanto, and James Collins, the chief operating officer of the agriculture division at DowDuPont, in a Q&A.

Collins says that gene editing will allow those in agriculture to do what they've always done — breed animals and crops — but at an increased pace. He notes that such technologies don't introduce foreign DNA into an animal or crop. For instance, he says that they've uncovered a desired trait among hybrid corn in Argentina. "Mother Nature put it there and we're optimizing that trait in corn in North America," he tells the Journal.

Grant likewise says that gene editing can speed up the development process, but he notes that the "rate-limiting step is going to be how fast can you produce the seed" and that it'll take years from producing a seed to having a new variety.

At the same time, they say that big data is enabling farmers to analyze their fields more deeply to wring the most they can out of the most productive acres.