Reed Mayberry, Pioneer senior marketing manager for corn, touts the benefits of drought-resistant AQUAmax hybrids and, in turn, their increasing popularity.
Reed Mayberry, Pioneer senior marketing manager for corn, touts the benefits of drought-resistant AQUAmax hybrids and, in turn, their increasing popularity.

JOHNSTON, Iowa — DuPont Pioneer anticipates a tripling of acres planted with its drought-resistant hybrid this year as it doubles the amount of its AQUAmax products available in the marketplace.

“For 2013, we have doubled the amount of AQUAmax products that we have from 22 last year to 44 this year,” Reed Mayberry, Pioneer senior marketing manager for corn, said at the company’s recent two-day media event.

“We have 27 new AQUAmax products and have 89- to 115-day maturities available. It will also be available with the AcreMax insect protection and other technology packages.

“It will be on over six million acres this year. It was two million last year.”

Mayberry referred to the new product’s success in field trials during last year’s drought.

“The proof is in the pudding with the AQUAmax performance trials we had in 2012,” he said.

On more than 11,200 on-farm, side-by-side comparisons with competitive products, AQUAmax products posted an average yield advantage of 8.9 percent in water-limited environments in 2012.

These products won 69 percent of these comparisons. In addition, AQUAmax hybrids delivered a yield advantage of almost 2 percent in favorable growing environments, winning 59 percent of last year’s trials.

In more than 19,200 on-farm comparisons during the past two years, AQUAmax hybrids show an 8.7 percent yield advantage in water-limited environments and 2.6 percent yield advantaged in favorable growing conditions.

“It’s not only about securing that low-end yield stability. It’s about the favorable conditions, as well. There was a very strong performance of AQUAmax products in 2012,” Mayberry said.

Up until recent years, questions fielded by Mayberry pertaining to drought-tolerant hybrid options were limited to those farmers in the western states.

“Now I’m getting these drought conversations from people in Iowa, eastern Nebraska and Illinois. People are asking what they options are for the corn lineup,” he said.

Water availability is the most intensive stress affecting crop yield. The annual crop loss to drought worldwide is $13 billion and totals more than $5 billion in the U.S.

Drought also is a complex issue, making challenge in finding the right combination of genetics to protect the plant.

“Saying that one gene or one thing can fix drought is absolutely not the answer. It’s a complex system of multiple genes and solutions that are required to minimize the impact of drought,” Mayberry said.

“Drought also changes from year to year. Those customers that have been in nontraditional drought areas that say they get 18, 19, 20 inches of moisture every year, it changes from year to year. The timing, location and severity changes from year to year.

“DuPont Pioneer has targeted these drought efforts for over 80 years, and in those 80 years we started our first drought specific program in York, Neb., in the mid-1950s. We are the industry leader in the development of drought-tolerant corn hybrids. We have significantly expanded what those global drought research efforts.”

The company now has nine facilities dedicated to drought research in the U.S. and one in Chile.

Mayberry said the conversations on drought he has with customers vary depending on region, therefore it was important to have such a broad footprint represented in the research facilities.

“If you are a customer in South Dakota or if you’re a customer in Texas, it varies on what a drought means to you. It could be abnormally warm nights. It could be lack of moisture or a number of things,” he said.

“What we’ve done with this footprint of drought research facilities west to east and north to south is really provided and understanding that we understand your drought concerns. We are able to do a number of things at the dedicated drought research facilities.

“In those nine locations in the United States, we’re able to vary the amount of stress that we look for in our plants, and we can see things like clear identification of genetic variations. There is no one silver bullet for drought. It’s years and years of innovation that allows us to pick out things like silk emergence, rooting depth, and leaf rolling and firing.”

Research plots are divided into full irrigation, limited irrigation and severe stress environments.

“We’re able to control the amount of moisture that goes on these plots, so we can select native traits that allow us to pick out things that are important to drought tolerance,” Mayberry said. “It’s an integral part of our tradition that goes back to the 1950s of picking out those things that are important to drought tolerance.”

The (Intensively Managed Product Advancement Characterization and Training) trials also play an important role in determining how potential new Pioneer brand corn hybrids and soybean varieties perform in real-world field environments.

“We have over 40 IMPACT teams that plant these plots throughout the United States. We have over 2,000 IMPACT plots in the United States,” Mayberry said.

“These plots allow us to take pre-commercial products, commercial products in the market today, as well as competitor products, so we can compare and contrast throughout the United States on side-by-side comparisons.”

“With this work we’re able to take the drought tolerance specific traits, specific silking, specific plant height and all those things that come into drought tolerance and really build it in the backyards of our sales teams. We began this process two years ago, and now IMPACT is fully implemented across the United States.”

He said DuPont Pioneer’s Accelerated Yield Technology plays an important role in bringing drought-tolerant products to market. AYT provides rapid scanning and identification of specific traits and builds on Pioneer’s knowledge.

“This allows us to bring better products to market faster than we ever have. AQUAmax is one example,” he said.

“AQUAmax is about having a healthier plant. It’s about staying greener. It’s about improved kernel tip fill. It’s about being a better more productive plant when we finally do get that rain, and it’s able to make much more grain and biomass with less moisture.”