JOHNSTON, Iowa – As companies develop corn hybrids that tolerate drought, they are also finding these hybrids do well under normal growing conditions.
Pioneer Hi-Bred recently announced that the seed company’s drought tolerant hybrids, marketed as “Optimum AQUAmax” provided a yield advantage over competitive hybrids.
The advantage occurred both in water-limited environments and favorable growing conditions.
“Optimum AQUAmax is really about offering growers more choices to help minimize risk and maximize their production and profitability on every acre,” said Monica Patterson, Pioneer senior marketing manager.
The Optimum AQUAmax hybrids are designed to help corn plants function through flowering despite drought stress. The hybrids also maintain a higher rate of photosynthesis in drought stress conditions while using less water.
“We have seen a suite of key native traits that work through multiple modes of action, and is having a positive impact on various kinds of stressors that are affecting the plant throughout the growing season,” Patterson said. “You add up those impacts over a growing season and we see a very positive impact on yield.”
In 2011, eight Optimum AQUAmax hybrids were introduced in the western Corn Belt.
In 680 on-farm trials during the 2011 growing season, Optimum AQUAmax hybrids showed a 7.1 percent yield advantage over grower-selected checks within water-limited environments.
The products also offered a 3.4 percent average yield advantage over grower-selected checks under more favorable growing conditions in 7,258 trials.
Developed using Pioneer’s Accelerated Yield Technology system, the technological advancement is viewed as a milestone towards a longer-term objective of bringing breeding and biotechnology solutions to drought-prone environments.
For 2012, Pioneer released 17 new Pioneer Optimum AQUAmax hybrids in the 96- to 116-day relative maturity.
“This means we can now offer new Optimum AQUAmax hybrids in our Northern Corn Belt,” said Patterson.
The key hybrids new for 2012 include P0062 – a 100-day hybrid, P0876 – 108-day hybrid, and P9690 – a 96-day hybrid.
“The 96-day could have a good fit in the ‘sugar sand’ areas of Minnesota, as well as those areas in South Dakota where water limitations are a key concern for growers,” she said.
When Pioneer asked hundreds of growers what drought meant to them, they received hundreds of answers.
“Certainly there are various environmental factors, and micro-climates across the United States,” she said. “Drought is not the same everywhere.”
The major drought issue in the High Plains has been water limitation plus very high daytime temperatures.
Patterson added that in the Southeast U.S. Coastal Plains, drought focuses on a lack of available water due to the soil type. High nighttime temperatures are another environmental factor that leads to drought stress in crops.
In the Northern Corn Belt region, dry conditions during flowering and pollination, and getting the corn plant through August and September to develop a complete ear remain drought concerns.
The current Optimum AQUAmax hybrids include multiple modes of actions to stay green, while exhibiting less leaf firing or leaf rolling, stomata control and water use.
“Growers are seeing a significant advantage with the native traits in Optimum AQUAmax,” Patterson said, adding that Pioneer Hi-Bred is studying transgenic drought traits, although developing the technology and meeting regulatory requirements is costly. “We would really have to increase that rate of gain to justify a transgenic solution.”
Along with the Optimum AQUAmax hybrid, Pioneer Hi-Bred encourages the grower to focus on sustainable practices that maximize the potential for success.
“It’s very important to not only have the right product on the right acre, but you need the best management practices to go along with that as well,” she said.