Monsanto: Growing Leaders from the Ground Up

A Monsanto field testing operations intern shares her experience.


Monsanto is No. 39 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list

(Originally Published on

Safety glasses? Check. High visibility gear? Check. Muddy boots? Check. Leadership skills? ... I don't think those were on my list for a day of collecting data in the field!

As Monsanto's Field Testing Operations Intern in Monmouth, Il, I expected my days to be filled with sunshine and crops. There was plenty of that to go around, but underneath the daily tasks of data collection, a deeper theme began to emerge, namely leadership. Within my time at Monsanto, I met a variety of leaders and began to pay close attention to how they brought the best out of their teams.

As a researcher, it is in my nature to observe and analyze. Taking a good look at the leaders around me, I began to collect my data set of what makes a great leader. Tim, Program Lead at the Monmouth site, supervises employees in Monsanto's breeding division while out in the field, and helps to make selections for the development of lines that will be commercially available to growers years down the road.

As a leader, Tim works alongside the research associates—leading among them, not above them. This cultivates an attitude of respect from his employees that is necessary for a successful outcome. Matt, the Operations Lead, oversees the field testing portion of the research associates' responsibilities. Matt showcases his leadership skills quietly, yet confidently, through valuing the input of each individual and making sure that everyone knows how important their work is to the Global Breeding organization. What's unique about Matt's leadership style is his ability to strategically push an employee's personal development. Monmouth's Site Lead, Eric, also has a subtle, but effective leadership style. While maintaining a vast working knowledge of all the site's operations, Eric always makes time to help others.

I reached out to a few new colleagues that I met during my travel to Monsanto's world headquarters in St. Louis to obtain their perspective on the definition of leadership. Joe, the NALAN South Testing Lead, summed it up best when he returned with a quote from John Maxwell, "Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others." Susan, an Agronomic Research Managers Lead, agreed, noting that her best managers put their employees first. As I look at the many outstanding leaders across Monsanto, my research overwhelmingly showed that great leaders emphasize their employee's value and empower others.

Armed with this knowledge, I did what science intends, and applied my research findings to my own internship. I am always eager to take on roles and learn new things. Adopting these philosophies led me to take advantage of an opportunity to work with test pilot technology in crop imaging. I also left my comfort zone to take the initiative of collecting data from several fields on my own. However, the most significant use of my new-found leadership skills was with the personal research project that I led. Within my project, I worked with a team of statisticians who came from a very different background than me. I learned how to delegate tasks, meet deadlines, and most importantly, acknowledge those team members who helped me complete the project.

Making others the focus of one's leadership is key, and knowing how to empower others are just two qualities among many that define an effective leader. However, there is always room to continue personal development, even as a seasoned professional. My intern experience at Monsanto is simply the beginning of a life-long commitment to learning, but now I can check off some of those leadership skills!

Monsanto Company Awards $500,000 Grant to T-REX to Support New Resource Center for Geospatial Innovation

Currently more than 200 small companies and start-ups are housed at T-REX, which is also located about two miles away from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency construction site.


Originally Published by Monsanto.

In its continued support of geospatial innovation, Monsanto Company has awarded a $500,000 grant to T-REX, a St. Louis based non-profit business and technology incubator to support the creation of a new Geospatial Resource and Innovation Center.

Read More Show Less

Monsanto and 2Blades Foundation Collaborate to Combat Devastating Soybean Disease

"Collaboration with industry is vital to ensure that new discoveries made in the lab can lead to innovations that will prevent crop losses caused by plant disease," said Dr. Peter van Esse, leader of the 2Blades Research Group at TSL.


Originally Published by Monsanto.

Monsanto Company and charitable organization 2Blades Foundation (2Blades) have formed a new collaboration to discover novel sources of genetic resistance to Asian soybean rust (ASR). 2Blades will deliver resistance genes in further collaboration with The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL, Norwich, UK), the leading global institute for research on plant-pathogen interactions, and the Universidade Federal de Viçosa (UFV), a leading university in agricultural sciences in Brazil.

Asian soybean rust, a disease caused by the fungus Phakopsora pachyrhizi, results in yellowing and browning of soybean leaves and can lead to premature senesence and significant yield loss. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), P. pachyrhizi has spread rapidly and causes yield losses from 10 to 80% in Argentina, Asia, Brazil, Paraguay, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.1

"Asian soybean rust is an ugly and expensive disease that can devastate farmers' harvests," said Jeremy Williams, Monsanto's biotechnology and ag productivity innovation lead. "Current fungicide treatments can provide some control, but farmers need more tools – and the 2Blades research could help provide a durable solution as part of an integrated pest-management system."

2Blades' mission is to contribute to global food security by developing crops with long-lasting resistance to pathogens in order to reduce losses due to disease. By working with world-leading plant scientists, 2Blades seeks to discover new sources of disease resistance in nature and transfer them into important crops to extend the breadth of their immune system and secure yields.

"Collaboration with industry is vital to ensure that new discoveries made in the lab can lead to innovations that will prevent crop losses caused by plant disease," said Dr. Peter van Esse, leader of the 2Blades Research Group at TSL. "It is therefore exciting to see that our scientific expertise and knowledge on plant-microbe interactions will be combined with Monsanto's capacity to deliver solutions to farmers to tackle a key challenge in soybean cultivation."

"The management of soybean rust requires the integration of different approaches, including disease resistance. This collaboration will allow us to use cutting-edge technologies to speed up the identification of new resistance genes that can be used to deliver more sustainable solutions to soybean farmers, reducing the environmental and economic impact of ASR," said Prof. Sérgio H. Brommonschenkel at UFV.

In January 2017, Monsanto, 2Blades and The Sainsbury Laboratory announced a collaboration focused on tackling corn disease complexes such as stalk and ear rots that have the potential to significantly reduce yield. That research is ongoing and is independent of this new collaboration.

The ASR collaboration complements Monsanto's work to expand the global crop protection toolbox while enabling farmers to produce more with less of an impact on the environment. 2Blades retains rights to deploy new leads arising from the program in crops for smallholder farmers in the least developed countries, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa. Soybean is a crop of significant and increasing importance in Africa, with extraordinary nutritional, soil, and economic benefits. However, the presence of ASR throughout the African continent is a major factor limiting production.

Monsanto: Mark Edge on WEMA, the Fall Armyworm and farmers in Africa

Mark Edge, Director of Collaborations for Developing Countries at Monsanto, talks about WEMA, the initiative that uses Bt maize to eradicate a harmful pest and help smallholder farmers in Africa.


By Mark Edge

Originally Published by Monsanto.

My work at Monsanto over the years has offered me many new challenges – lately I'm working with a team on the complex issue of helping smallholder farmers in Africa get better seed to help them manage the threats to their maize crops.

Read More Show Less