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Hybrids that deter drought

04/05/2013 @ 11:02am

Five years ago, corn seemed bulletproof. Weeds wilted against the Roundup Ready System. Ditto for insects that dared to dent corn hybrids laced with Bt traits.

Drought? It seemed a distant memory, with the great drought of 1988 destined for dusty old history books.

Over time, though, bullets started hitting corn. Weeds that resisted the Roundup Ready system surfaced. In scattered areas, the trait that enabled corn hybrids to resist corn rootworm failed.

Meanwhile, widespread drought returned with a vengeance in 2012. There are fears in the western Corn Belt that soils may not recover for 2013.

There’s good news on the drought front, though. Several companies have launched or are launching drought-tolerant corn hybrids with biotech or native traits.

“Drought is always going to be a negative impact,” says Mark Edge, DroughtGard Hybrids marketing lead for Monsanto. “What we’re doing is reducing the impact of it.”

Drought-Tolerant Hybrids For 2013

Here’s what four companies have in store for 2013.

  • Monsanto is launching its Genuity DroughtGard Hybrids in the western Corn Belt in 2013. The firm is marketing approximately 25 mainly DeKalb hybrids containing its biotech drought-tolerant trait in areas where scant water often squelches yields to between 70 and 130 bushels per acre. Hybrids with relative maturities of 95 to 115 days will include those stacked with herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant traits. The drought-tolerant transgenic trait joins sound genetics and agronomic practices to boost overall water-use efficiency, say Monsanto officials.
    In 2012, Monsanto trials with around 250 farmers from South Dakota to Texas showed DroughtGard Hybrids edged competing products by 5 bushels per acre, say company officials. Monsanto plans to commercialize DroughtGard Hybrids in the central and eastern Corn Belt later this decade.
  • DuPont Pioneer is doubling its Optimum Aquamax offerings for 2013 to 45 hybrids. These hybrids, including offerings stacked with herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant traits, have relative maturities of 89 to 115 days. DuPont Pioneer is expanding offerings of hybrids containing its native drought-tolerant trait from the western Corn Belt eastward that can occasionally be short on moisture.
    The company’s internal studies show an 8.9% yield edge for Optimum Aquamax hybrids vs. those without the trait in environments that limit corn yields to 140 bushels per acre or less. Under favorable conditions, DuPont Pioneer’s Optimum Aquamax products yielded 1.9% higher than those hybrids without the trait, says Reed Mayberry, senior corn marketing manager. That’s based on 2012’s 11,269 side-by-side comparisons.
  • Syngenta is launching nine Agrisure Artesian hybrids with relative maturities ranging between 101 and 112 days in 2013. Syngenta is aiming these hybrids containing a native drought-tolerant trait across the Corn Belt, rather than just an initial specific region.
    “They will be broadly adapted from eastern Colorado to western Ohio,” says Duane Martin, Syngenta commercial traits manager. “They are a risk-management tool for the central and eastern Corn Belt. We see these hybrids as a yield-consistency tool, instead of just a defensive strategy against drought only.”
    Agrisure Artesian hybrids will include those stacked with traits that resist corn rootworm, European corn borer, and glyphosate. Plans for 2014 are to include hybrids with stacks, including the Agrisure Viptera trait and Syngenta’s new Duracade corn rootworm trait.
  • Dow AgroSciences genetically screens corn hybrids with drought-tolerant traits. For now, though, it has opted not to brand these hybrids as drought-tolerant.
    “It is all about product placement,” says Eric Sitzman, corn product man ager for Mycogen Seeds. “Some hybrids respond better under drought.”
    Still, care has to be taken not to overpromise, he says. It isn’t realistic to consistently grow 120-bushel-per-acre corn in the western Corn Belt on just 10 inches of rain annually with any drought-tolerant technology, he says.

What To Expect

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