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Crop developers attempt to cover all bases and phases
The Drought of 2012 served as a sort of trial by fire for major crop developers.
Published: Oct 26, 2012
“What a year to test a drought-tolerant hybrid!” quipped Pioneer’s Janelle Buxton, whose company is preparing for a third planting season with its drought-tolerant Optimum AQUAMax corn.
While AQUAMax was introduced for use in “water-limited environments” across the western U.S.; 2 million acres were planted this season. Buxton told FarmWeek the company will expand plantings nationwide in 2013.
In 700-some on-farm trials last year, Pioneer noted a 7 percent average per-bushel yield increase in water-stressed areas and a 3 percent bump under normal growing conditions.
Meanwhile, following successful 2012 trials with 105-day and 112-day maturities, Syngenta plans to significantly boost supplies of its Agrisure Artesian 4111 varieties next year for growers in both the Western Plains and the Midwest.
Syngenta agronomist Randy Kool recognizes farmers can’t anticipate what the 2013 season may bring. His company thus has focused on “maximizing yield when it rains and minimizing stress when it doesn’t.”
Both the Pioneer and Syngenta products take a “multi-phase” approach to drought/yield protection. Buxton noted “there’s no silver bullet solution for drought,” and reported AQUAMax was designed to offer stronger root development, more prolific silking, and improved kernel fill.
Syngenta focused on 13 different genes to “protect the plant from beginning to end,” Syngenta’s Kool told FarmWeek.
Monsanto’s entry in the 2013 drought tolerance derby, DroughtGard, was planted this year on a limited basis in the Western Plains, where commercial release is planned. DroughtGard hybrid lead Mark Edge suggested the product could reach Illinois or Iowa in 2014.
Because DroughtGard contains a new GMO water use trait derived from soil bacteria, “we need to keep it out of (Midwest) export markets until we get all the regulatory approvals we need,” Edge told FarmWeek.
Current Syngenta and Pioneer drought traits are non-GMO: No international approvals were needed prior to release even of varietal “stacks” such as Artesian 4111, which include approved GMO insect resistance/herbicide tolerance traits.
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