Drawing a rewarding amount of visitors to your stand during a show is not easy. And to successfully convey your product message can be even more difficult. But Monsanto managed to perfect this challenge during Agritech with the exciting activities at their stand. Monsanto is one of the world’s largest seed companies and accounts for almost 25% of the global seed market. Under their well-known DEKALB brand, many tonnes of seed have been sold in Africa, helping many people and farmers to rise out of poverty.
DEKALB cultivars are also available in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and Malawi and are carefully bred for high yields, drought tolerance, and resistance against diseases such as leaf rust, northern maize leaf blight (NCLB), grey leaf spot (GLS), and diplodia.
DEKALB’s seed brings advanced research, early maturity, consistent performance and high yielding genetics to the table. When a farmer adds good management to the mix, he will stand in awe with the success of his harvest. Monsanto started preparing their Agritech stand months in advance. They planted demonstration plots of their four key hybrids in different corners to be ready for show-off during the big event. They also planted their new cultivar, which was launched on the second day of the expo. During the Agritech show, Monsanto combined goal shooting competitions, an inspirational product introduction talk and hand-out gifts to capture the attention of the visitors.
“We offered a goal shooting challenge, because Zambians love football. We rewarded every goal shooter with something he or she could take home,” Choolwe Mweene, Marketing Lead of Monsanto Zambia and Malawi, says.
They also handed out Chitengas, (body wrappers), carrier bags, t-shirts, caps, woven bags, and everyone received sample seeds to test at home. Choolwe says: “We hope to steer their minds to DEKALB seed before the planting season arrives.” The Monsanto personnel with their bright DEKALB branded jackets had their hands full to attend to every visitor.
They took the farmers through the exhibitions while giving them agronomic advice. About a 1 000 farmers lined up to take the tour. The main focus, and the reason for all the activities, was the launch of the revolutionary DK777 maize cultivar. “DK777 is going to be our blockbuster product,” Choolwe says.
Currently Monsanto has four key maize varieties on the market. They are DKC80-33 which covers the early maturing segment, DKC90-89 and DKC80-53 in the medium maturing segment, and DKC80-73 which covers the late maturing segment. DK777 is a medium maturing hybrid. “If you look at the Zambian market and the potential market size and the popular plantin window period, 70% lies in die medium maturing segment, and we realised that we must participate stronger in this section,” Choolwe says.
“The rainfall pattern in Zambia can be erratic, but it is generally good and sufficient for maize production. We have realised that medium maturing maize performs the best under these conditions. That is why we are saying that the market potential is good and therefore we should drive the market uptake of the product in that segment.”
DK777 offers a whole package of benefits to the farmer:
- Excellent yield stability
- Potential double ears
- Good tolerance to maize diseases (GLS, blight, rust and cob-rot as well as maize lethal necrosis (MLN)
- Exceptionally good grain quality
- Good poundability
- Excellent standing ability
- Uniform cob placement
- Also an excellent choice for commercial farmers
“DK777 is the kind of product that can proactively counter the many diseases potentially threatening harvests in Zambia, such as MLN coming in from the northern part of Zambia. We had excellent results during the trails,” Choolwe says.
DK777 also promises an exceptionally high yield. Choolwe says: “On the other side we are also looking at yield. Farmers say that many of the products on the market do not give them the promised yields. DK777 will change that and will easily give eight tonnes per hectare, which means about 200 bags of 50 kg each. But it is important to follow the correct planting procedure. We are instructing farmers to plant it in a particular way that includes taking care of the field beforehand, how to plant, the right spacing, which fertiliser and nutrients the plants need, which insecticides and herbicides should be applied and when and how to apply it. We cover the entire process. We also give them reading material to take home for later reference.”
Monsanto’s commitment to innovation and development doesn’t end here. “We shall still keep on perfecting this hybrid until it gives the best and answers to the most basic needs the farmer has,” Choolwe says. “That is why we are spending vast resources to drive the development and full understanding of our hybrids. We are planning to present customer feedback forums on this product to ask the farmers to tell us about their experiences. When they give us that feedback, we shall forward the information to our Research and Development Department to further perfect this cultivar. This is how we build on our previous products. We want to ensure that our next product will be even better than the previous ones. We believe in giving the customer what he or she wants.”
Developing a new seed cultivar for the market can take ages. Monsanto’s development trials may take six to ten years to breed or develop the perfect seed. The next hurdle is the regulatory process which takes another four years. Governments need to test and put their final stamp on a cultivar before any farmer can plant it for commercial use. This means that the entire process will take between 10 to 14 years before a farmer can enjoy the fruit of Monsanto’s labour.
Monsanto recently finished a continental tour which started in Tanzania, went through Malawi and ended up in Zambia down to the southern region. The fall army worm issue was high on their agenda. To tackle this dreadful pest head-on, they included their breeders from Asia-Africa and South Africa, local breeders, product managers, commercial people and the entire Monsanto team from the cross continental region to provide farmers with the correct information.”
But Monsanto is not finished yet. “We shall roll out the launch of DK777 on a wider scale and take it countrywide to smaller groups in small communities. Our personnel will conduct intimate conversations with smaller community groupings to introduce and discuss our new product and prepare the farmers for the new planting season,” Choolwe says.