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Get set for native traits

Agriculture.com Staff 06/09/2006 @ 12:42pm

Corn resistant to drought seems like a Faustian dream -- one in which you have to give up something significant to gain a benefit. Yet, agronomically sound corn that stands up to drought like never before will likely be reality in the next decade.

It's one of the things officials for Syngenta Seeds told us about when we visited them recently at Syngenta's Stanton, Minnesota, research facility. Syngenta and other seed companies are currently researching this product.

No, drought-resistant corn doesn't mean that Death Valley will become the next hotspot for growing corn. What you'll see, though, are trait-laced hybrids that are vastly more efficient in using available water than today's hybrids. Ray Riley, Syngenta head of global corn and soybean, seeds product development, points out drought-resistant corn will reduce volatility and increase performance stability.

"There is a tremendous opportunity in reducing input costs in irrigation," he adds. "It will improve efficiency of water use, maintaining yields while using less water."

Corn resistant to drought seems like a Faustian dream -- one in which you have to give up something significant to gain a benefit. Yet, agronomically sound corn that stands up to drought like never before will likely be reality in the next decade.

Get used to the term native traits. They're ones like drought resistance, yield enhancement, better nitrogen utilization, and cold tolerance that will tap the tremendous diversity of corn's genetic base.

"The whole biofuels area has been a big area for us," says Bernens. "We've been working on some traits that will have fairly significant impact in the ethanol industry."

A new venture for Syngetna and its seed companies is a joint venture with Pioneer Hi-Bred International via Greenleaf Genetics LLC, Omaha, Nebraska. Pioneer and Syngenta will funnel a share of their proprietary genetics via Greenleaf.

All plans are go for hybrids containing Syngenta's rootworm-resistant trait to hit the market in 2007. The Agrisure RW trait gives farmers a third alternative for hybrids containing resistance to corn rootworm. The others are Monsanto's YieldGard Rootworm and Pioneer Hi-Bred International's and Dow AgroScience's Herculex RW. Agrisure RW uses a different protein called a modified Cry3Aa gene to control rootworm larvae.

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