A Central Illinois corn field shows effects of the drought in July 2012. (Photo by Carrie Muehling/WJBC)
By Carrie Muehling
KANSAS CITY – While 2012 presented challenging growing conditions for corn, it was a good test for drought tolerant hybrids.
2012 was the second year for commercial sales for Optimum AQUAmax hybrids from DuPont Pioneer, which were launched in Jan. 2011. The drought tolerant corn hybrids were developed and tested to deliver a yield advantage in water limited environments, and offer top end yield potential in normal growing conditions. Growers planted Optimum AQUAmax on about two million acres across the U.S. this year with positive yield results despite the widespread drought.
In over 11,200 on farm competitive trials with similar traited products, growers saw an 8.9 percent bushel yield advantage in water limited environments, and 1.9 percent yield advantage in more normal, favorable growing conditions, according to Janelle Buxton, product marketing communications manager with DuPont Pioneer.
“I know a lot of growers, when they are thinking about product selections for the year, they tend to pick a racehorse hybrid and a workhorse hybrid to try to mitigate risk. The positive thing about Optimum AQUAmax is that it is sort of a two in one. Not only is it a workhorse hybrid in those tough, dry conditions, but then also it’s a racehorse hybrid for those favorable growing environments,” said Buxton.
Feedback from growers included visual differences like increased stay green, less leaf firing and leaf rolling, increased root mass for standability and better kernel tip fill, all resulting in increased yield.
One characteristic specific to Optimum AQUAmax hybrids is earlier flowering. The most significant drought stress can occur between flowering and the grain fill period. These products are designed to flower earlier to help extend that window of opportunity for the kernel set to maximize yield that is on that plant.
Optimum AQUAmax hybrids use native trait technology, which means categorizing the genetics available today and selecting them specifically for traits that will help mitigate risk against drought.
“The reason why it’s so difficult to breed for drought in terms of plant genetics is that it can occur at any point. So, for example, when you’re in Central Illinois, you might be experiencing a drought stress that is different than Kentucky, for example, or Louisiana,” said Buxton. “So you’ve got geography to deal with, and then you also have heat stress versus water stress versus soil types.”
Native trait technology is designed to defend against drought whenever it occurs, whether during the vegetative period, silking or kernel set. This is different from a transgenic product that guards against drought. While some Optimum AQUAmax products have the latest trait technology packages to combat other challenges to the plant, for right now the drought solution from DuPont Pioneer is a native trait approach.
Buxton participated in Trade Talk during the 2012 National Association of Farm Broadcasting Convention in Kansas City earlier this month.
Carrie Muehling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.