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Posted 27 April 2015. PMN Crop News.

DuPont Pioneer Hybrid Maize Study Shows Strong Yield Advantages to Help Farmers Weather Drought

Optimum AQUAmax Hybrid Seeds Increase Yield by an Average of 6 Percent in Water-Stressed Environments

Source: DuPont Pioneer Press Release.

Des Moines, Iowa (April 1, 2015)--DuPont Pioneer today announced the Journal of Crop Science has published results of a multi-year study conducted to evaluate maize (corn) hybrids under drought-stress, or water-limited, conditions. Findings scientifically demonstrate the efficacy of Pioneer brand Optimum AQUAmax maize hybrid seeds, which help farmers achieve more stable yields under drought-stress conditions and high-yield potential in favorable growing conditions.


"Through these and related research efforts, we are making real progress in understanding what contributes to drought tolerance," said Mark Cooper, research director, trait characterization and development at DuPont Pioneer, and one of the study's authors. "This will help DuPont Pioneer continue to deliver strong maize hybrids to growers around the world."

The international community faces the challenge of growing food sustainably, which involves meeting the demands of a growing population in the midst of adverse environmental changes. Globally, water is the most limiting factor to agricultural and food productivity, causing annual crop losses of $13 billion due to drought. Since 1980, major droughts and heat waves within the United States alone have resulted in costs exceeding $100 billion, easily becoming one of the most costly weather-related disasters on the continent during that time (Lott and Ross, 2000). In 2012, a severe drought contributed to historically high grain prices in the United States (Boyer et al., 2013).

Key findings from the study

The multi-year study included comprehensive managed-environment research experiments, on-farm industry evaluation experiments and planting density studies. More than 10,700 U.S. farms provided extensive data comparing 78 of the Optimum AQUAmax hybrids to a sample of 4,200 industry-leading hybrids used by growers throughout the Corn Belt.

In the on-farm experiments, the Optimum AQUAmax hybrids were, on average, 6.5 percent higher yielding under water-limited conditions and 1.9 percent higher yielding under favorable growing conditions.

Under water-limited conditions, the Optimum AQUAmax hybrids yielded better in higher plant population situations (i.e., more plants per acre) when compared to the other hybrids. The yield advantage of Optimum AQUAmax hybrids compared to other hybrids became greater as plant populations increased.

"Through the integrated use of advanced breeding technologies, the study provides a deeper understanding of the under-lying physiology of corn plants and responses to drought, and the opportunities for further sustainable improvements in the agricultural productivity of the U.S. Corn Belt," said Carlos Loeffler, senior research scientist at DuPont Pioneer.

Minimizing risk and maximizing productivity for farmers

Maize is vulnerable to drought conditions especially at critical stages of development. Pioneer sought to help growers overcome this challenge by developing Optimum AQUAmax maize hybrids that resulted in better grain yield under drought and favorable conditions, particularly in the U.S. Corn Belt.

"Pioneer researchers conducted this comprehensive study as a part of our continued commitment to maintain or improve yield potential, minimize risk to growers when moisture is limited, and help meet global food and feed needs in a sustainable system," said Loeffler.

"Providing public access to the results of this research effort allows us to learn and collaborate with other scientists, with the ultimate goal of using inputs more efficiently and improving food security," said Loeffler.

To access the full study manuscript, "Industry Scale Evaluation of Maize Hybrids Selected for Increased Yield in Drought-Stress Conditions of the U.S. Corn Belt," visit

From 2011-2013, Pioneer brand Optimum AQUAmax products were grown in 42,084 on farm comparisons across the United States against competitor brand products (+/- 4.CRM).

Water-limited yield data includes 5,203 competitive comparisons with a win ratio of 67 percent and favorable environment includes 36,881 competitive comparisons with a win ratio of 57 percent. Water-limited environments are those in which the water supply demand ratio during flowering or grain fill was less than 0.66 on a 0-1 scale (1=adequate moisture) using the Pioneer proprietary EnClass system and in which the yield average of competitor brand hybrids at the location was less than 150 bu/acre. Favorable growing conditions are locations where the yield levels were at or above 150 bu/acre on average regardless of water supply/demand ratio. Precipitation levels are interpolated vales based on local weather stations. Product performance in water-limited environments is variable and depends on many factors such as the severity and timing of moisture deficiency heat stress, soil type, management practices and environmental stress as well as disease and pest pressures. All hybrids may exhibit reduced yield under water and heat stress, individual results may vary.

Jane Slusark