DuPont's first-quarter profit and sales beat Wall Street's expectations, helped by price hikes and strong sales of herbicides and genetically modified seeds.

Sales in economically challenged Europe were 14 percent higher, reflecting DuPont's 2011 buyout of Danish food ingredients maker Danisco. However, sales in Asia were flat, in part because of soft demand for solar panel parts.

Results from DuPont often serve as a barometer for the global economy since its products are used to produce a range of consumer goods, from toys and toothbrushes to televisions and smartphones.

The company posted net income of $1.49 billion, or $1.57 per share, on Thursday, compared with $1.43 billion, or $1.52 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding a $50 million payment to customers of DuPont's Imprelis herbicide, which damaged certain customers' trees, the company earned $1.61 per share.

By that measure, analysts expected earnings of $1.55 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales rose 12 percent to $11.3 billion. Analysts expected $11.23 billion.

An 8 percent price hike offset a 2 percent drop in volume and currency charges.

Agriculture sales rose 16 percent as farmers stocked up ahead of the North American spring planting season.

The company affirmed its 2012 earnings forecast of $4.20 to $4.40 per share.

DuPont's market-driven science and commitment to innovation and productivity are winning in key markets, despite economic headwinds early in the first quarter, Chief Executive Officer Ellen Kullman said in a statement.

(Reporting By Ernest Scheyder in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)