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Monsanto first quarter profit +53%

Monsanto Co. reported that its fiscal first-quarter earnings surged 53% and the world's biggest seed company said strong early orders for next year's crop suggest it will hit the high end of its earnings guidance for the full year.

The company, which makes Roundup herbicide and genetically engineered crops, earned $90 million for the three months ended Nov. 30, up from $59 million in the same period of 2005. Sales grew 10% to $1.54 billion from $1.41 billion a year ago.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant said first-quarter growth was largely driven by a big boost in corn seed orders. Monsanto is aggressively taking market share in the corn seed sector from old-school seed companies like Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., a division of the chemical giant DuPont Co.

Monsanto's fiscal year is built around the agricultural calendar, so the first quarter begins after the summer farming season. The autumn months are an early indicator of how Monsanto's year will play out as farmers start placing orders for next year's crop.

Monsanto forecasts that total soybean acres under production may decrease slightly during this growing season as farmers increase the number of acres planted to corn in the United States, given that corn is fetching higher market prices due to demand for alternative fuels such as ethanol.

For future developments Monsanto is moving ahead on eight varieties of new crops that will feature traits like drought tolerance and healthy oil content.

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