UPDATE 3-Monsanto beats expectations on strong corn, soybean demand

(Adds byline, financial details on corn and soybean businesses, quote)

April 2 (Reuters) - Monsanto Co, the world's largest seed company, reported higher-than-expected quarterly earnings on Wednesday as its corn and soybean businesses expanded globally.

The company, which specializes in developing genetically engineered crops that withstand herbicides and ward off insects, also affirmed its fiscal-year forecast.

"Our business is on track to deliver the growth we anticipated," Monsanto Chairman Hugh Grant said on a conference call.

Monsanto said it had earned $1.67 billion, or $3.15 a share, in the second quarter ended Feb. 28, up 13 percent from $1.48 billion, or $2.74 a share, a year earlier. Analysts on average were expecting $3.07 a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net sales rose to $5.8 billion from $5.5 billion, in line with analysts' expectations.

Shares of Monsanto were up 0.2 percent at $113.79 in early trading.

Corn remains king in terms of growth, the company said. Profit margins expanded 2.5 points in the second quarter for that business, which Monsanto said was on track to post record volume for the fiscal year despite a decline in planted acres expected in North and South America.

The company's corn portfolio is expanding globally, helping sales of corn seed and traits rise 4 percent to $3.4 billion in the quarter. Monsanto officials said Wednesday that they saw a $1 billion net sales growth opportunity in corn in the next five years due to global demand.

Also strong, sales of soybean seeds and traits rose 21 percent to a record $820 million. Monsanto is undertaking its largest-ever soybean product launch now, rolling out offerings in Latin America that combine tolerance to glyphosate herbicide, protection against caterpillars and yield improvement. The company also sees a $1 billion net sales growth opportunity across five years for soy, officials said.

Sales of vegetable seeds rose 10 percent to $219 million, while sales of cotton fell 18 percent to $49 million.

Overall, sales in Monsanto's seeds and genomics segment totaled $4.6 billion in the quarter, up almost 7 percent from a year earlier. The company's agricultural productivity segment, which includes the Roundup herbicide business, contributed $1.2 billion, up from $1.1 billion.

The company said it still expected full-year earnings per share of $5.00 to $5.20 on an ongoing basis and $5.02 to $5.22 on a net basis.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)