Monsanto (NYSE:MON) posted fiscal first-quarter 2013 results yesterday that blew past expectations. Revenue jumped 21% to $2.94 billion, and earnings per share of $0.62 cruised past analyst expectations of $0.37. But for long-term investors, the more important news may have been a record 18 R&D projects moving into new phases of development over the past year.

R&D is the future
Monsanto has focused research on maximizing yield with an integrated system instead of just selling components. So advancements in new projects will create selling opportunities up and down the value stream instead of just a single product. Last year, the company advanced five projects related to corn, two in soybeans, and three in cotton, along with eight other projects.

The company is also leveraging this R&D on a global scale by launching products in new geographies. Latin America is a big focus, with expanded usage in Brazil and Argentina.

Why it matters
Monsanto isn't the only one making advanced seeds and chemicals that increase yield for farmers. BASF and DuPont (NYSE:DD) are also major conglomerates in the business, but the difference is Monsanto's focus on agriculture. BASF and DuPont make a lot of other products, which takes away from R&D dollars and provides a great comparative upside for Monsanto.

The hope is that Monsanto can take more share of products aside from seeds in the coming years, growing the business as a result. So far, the pipeline puts the company on the way to success.

Betting on yield and a growing population
There are a number of ways to play the ag market, but Monsanto looks to be one of the hottest companies around from an operational standpoint. Anything that increases yield is a hot commodity, with a growing world population and growing weather disturbances that affect stocks. PotashCorp (NYSE:POT) and Mosaic (NYSE:MOS) are also providing the fertilizer needed to increase yield and are now trading at levels that should be attractive to investors. 

Travis Hoium has no position in any stocks mentioned. You can follow Travis on Twitter at @FlushDrawFool, check out his personal stock holdings, or follow his CAPS picks at TMFFlushDraw

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