Hybrids May Reduce Rain Effect

Syngenta’s experimental corn lines optimize water use.

Every corn grower in the Midwest knows about the "million dollar rain." While it is rare that too much or too little moisture destroys a crop, the difference between profit and loss in many seasons comes down to one significant rainfall at just the right time, thus the "million dollar rain."

Thanks to improved plant breeding and innovative trait selection, corn farmers will soon be able to select hybrids that use water more efficiently to produce eye-popping yields when weather conditions are ideal and still-strong yields when Mother Nature doesn’t quite cooperate.

Syngenta is using a combination of selective breeding of native and biotech traits to produce hybrids designed to yield well across a wider variety of weather conditions.

"Water optimization technology could revolutionize corn production in the western and central Corn Belt where moisture is usually the limiting factor to yields and irrigation is a major expense," says Wayne Fithian, corn product business lead for Syngenta in Golden Valley, MN. "Syngenta is committed to being a leader in developing agriculture-based solutions to address pressing global issues, including variable climatic conditions. This rapidly emerging water-optimization science will help our customers meet our growing demand for food, feed, and fuel.

"Multiple factors interact to influence how well a corn plant is able to produce yield when available soil moisture is below optimum," Fithian explains, "including pollination success, ability to maintain photosynthesis, and root system strength. The impact that drought has on a corn crop is very complex, but the real yield killer is poor kernel set on the ears. Our goal is a crop that sets full ears under normal conditions, but also does an excellent job of setting kernels under drought conditions. These hybrids could also allow farmers to reduce the amount of water applied through irrigation."

Syngenta is achieving consistent positive yield results with its water optimization traits in corn lines it is testing across a wide range of moisture conditions, including dryland and irrigated trials, in North America and South America. All Syngenta seed brands, including Garst, Golden Harvest, and NK will introduce Syngenta water optimization technology hybrids.

"Water optimization stacked with our Agrisure traits for insect resistance and glyphosate and glufosinate tolerance will give corn growers new opportunity to manage risk, reduce crop stress and produce a consistent yield year after year with less concern about moisture availability," Fithian states.

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