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Tomorrow's Toolbox

July 27, 2012
By: Ben Potter, Social Media and Innovation Editor google + 
tomorrows toolbox corn

Tools, tech and trends you can expect to see in 2013

Next year, farmers will have access to an unprecedented amount of seed selection, a mix of today’s tried-and-true performers and tomorrow’s top contenders. A few of these seeds will

introduce exotic new traits; most just hope to raise the bar incrementally on yield and/or quality. Here’s a sampling of what you can expect when purchasing seed for 2013.

Drought focus

DuPont Pioneer is not unique in realizing that choice is important for farmers. But its "right product, right acre" approach is certainly one that carries weight with its customers.

"We’re built around choice," says Josh St. Peters, DuPont Pioneer corn marketing manager. "We’re always introducing new products. It seems like there are always opportunities to look at new traits and technologies."

One of the newest technologies the major seed companies are investing in is drought tolerance. DuPont Pioneer has debuted its Optimum AQUAmax line of drought-tolerant corn hybrids, and Monsanto has countered with its own line of DroughtGard hybrids. Breeders are using a cadre of native genes to improve water access and grain yield in water-limited environments. Joe Keaschall, DuPont Pioneer regional corn research director, says limited water is one of several age-old challenges that is being solved byte by byte with computerized processes.

"We have fingerprinted thousands of inbreds and are using powerful computers to sort them all out," Keaschall says. "Computerization is speeding up a lot of our processes, whether we’re looking for genetic patterns of drought tolerance, strength against problems like Goss’s wilt or brittle snap, or any number of things."

In fact, several companies are now targeting Goss’s wilt, a disease that has grown more prevalent in recent years. Fungicides are largely ineffective against this bacterium, so breeding advancements might prove to be a more practical solution.

"Yield is still what pays the bills," Keaschall adds, but modern processes allow breeders to bring better uniformity, standability, harvestability and other desirable crop characteristics into the picture much earlier in the breeding process.

Keaschall says Optimum AQUAmax will prove most popular in the West, but he hopes that Midwest farmers give it at least a passing glance.

"In states such as Iowa or Illinois, Optimum AQUAmax becomes an insurance policy," he says. "Drought can happen anywhere, and when it does, you’ll want a hybrid that will still survive and yield well."


Trait lull?

Veteran corn breeder Fritz Behr of Wyffels Hybrids says the next game-changing corn or soybean trait is not due to land until after 2013. "It feels like a lull," he says. "We don’t see anything that’s going to blow away what we’re already doing."

The absence of a hot new genetic trait won’t slow down Wyffels’ breeding efforts, Behr says. Its goal remains the same: Develop hybrids that can yield 2% to 3% more than current commercial offerings. The toolbox to accomplish this is deeper than ever, he says. Several technologies that used to sound like science fiction—molecular breeding, dihaploid techniques, laser-assisted seed selection—are now commonplace and further accelerating breeding improvements.

Behr predicts that rapid refuge-in-a-bag (RIB) adoption will continue. Farmers are demanding high-performance products with RIB options. "We expect RIB sales to double for us in 2013 and again in 2014," he says.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Seed Guide 2012
RELATED TOPICS: Technology, Seed

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