New Technology Protects Corn Yield Potential from Drought Stress

March 16, 2011 10:02 PM

Corn hybrids containing new Agrisure Artesian technology from Syngenta demonstrate the ability to deliver up to 15% yield preservation under drought stress, according to company field research. 

This spring, farmers will have the opportunity to evaluate the technology on their own farms, as the company is launching 109-day relative maturity hybrids to the marketplace in limited supply.
Other companies, including Pioneer and Monsanto, are also researching hybrids that can withstand drought conditions. Pioneer says research trials and on-farm tests demonstrate a 5% yield advantage with its Optimum AQUAmax hybrids, compared to leading commercial hybrids tested under dryland conditions.
Monsanto Company is collaborating with BASF to bring the first genetically modified drought-tolerant trait to the field in 2012.
The new Agrisure Artesian hybrids revolve around a unique set of 12 genes identified through the company’s proprietary molecular Gene Blueprinting process.
The process entails work by researchers to identify multiple genes that can potentially preserve yield when water is limited, notes Robert Bensen, trait genetics lead at Syngenta Biotechnology.
“Marker assisted gene technology enables us to evaluate which gene versions and combinations perform best and complement each other,” Bensen explains.
Wayne Fithian adds that the technology offers farmers applications that are broader than straightforward drought stress.
“We’re looking not just at obvious situations but also where farmers have to worry about drought stress some years but not in all years; or, for use in areas where farmers have fields with sandy spots,” says Fithian, head of technical information services at Syngenta Seeds.
In addition, Fithian notes: “On high-yield ground we still have that workhorse tendency. We can help people provide stable yields in a wide area of adaptation.”
However, company research indicates that the technology performs particularly well in areas under moderate to high levels of drought stress.
Agrisure Artesian
Bensen explains that corn hybrids react to stress in different ways tending upon their growth stage.
“Early-season stress reduces biomass, shortens plant height, reduces leaf size, contributes to poor canopy cover and reduced ear size, so available ovules are reduced,” Bensen says.
Mid-season stress at flowering often contributes to poor pollination rates. 
“If after pollination you have stress you can have a lack of support for the kernels so they are aborted,” he adds.
Once kernels are fertilized and the ears enter the grain-fill period, inadequate moisture can reduce grain fill and, ultimately, impact yield results.
“The critical period on our graph, at flowering, is when the corn plant has the largest demands for water and when it’s most vulnerable to stress,” Bensen reports, noting that seasonal rains often trail off in July, especially in the Western Corn Belt.
The Western Corn Belt, along with the Texas Panhandle and southern states are key market areas for the technology.
Agrisure Artesian hybrids are available on a limited basis for 2011 through the Syngenta Golden Harvest, Garst and NK seed brands.


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