Pioneer To Offer New Drought Options

A multi-faceted program could launch Drought I corn hybrids developed with Pioneer Hi-Bred’s Accelerated Yield Technology system (AYT) as soon as 2010. What growers will be targeted and what will it take to get to market?

Corn growers facing the challenge of drought conditions now will have even better options for improving their yields. Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business, is boosting corn yields under drought conditions through multiple, synergistic paths — including conventional breeding, molecular-enhanced breeding and selection, and transgenic approaches.

Leveraging the results of this strategy, Pioneer plans to introduce its first drought-tolerant corn hybrids developed with AYT as early as 2010, pending product performance in on-farm drought-stressed trials.

These new hybrids, known as Drought I on the Pioneer research and development pipeline, contain native corn drought-tolerance genes that have been identified through marker-assisted selection and advanced into elite genetics using the tools of AYT. These corn hybrids will be marketed in dryland and limited-irrigation growing environments of the western Corn Belt where yield expectations typically are lower due to lack of adequate rainfall and available water. Drought I corn hybrids will be developed using native drought-tolerance traits, therefore they will not require regulatory approvals for commercialization or export.

“This is a huge step-change in a corn plant’s ability to yield with less water,” says Jeff Schussler, Pioneer senior research manager. “Two main factors in improving drought tolerance are a plant’s resource capture and its resource utilization. Through our multi-faceted research, we have identified genes that allow the corn plant to significantly improve in both areas — the plant’s ability to capture more resources such as water, sunlight and nutrients and to allow for better utilization – in other words, improving the plant’s effectiveness in using resources.”

Yield improvement targets for Drought I corn hybrids are 5 percent to 10 percent better than leader hybrids currently available in these limited-water environments, says Schussler. Hybrids with improved drought-stress tolerance also may enable farmers to expand their corn acres by planting them in more arid conditions that typically only support the production of wheat, cotton, or sorghum.

(Source: Pioneer Hi-Bred)

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