DroughtGard trait ready to hit market in 2013
By Darrin Cline
With much of the United States facing its biggest drought in nearly a half-century, seed companies are preparing new varieties to combat the dry conditions.
Monsanto's new DroughtGard is one of these traits that will become available for corn growers to purchase for the 2013 planting season. Monsanto hosted a field day at its test plot in Halstead, Kan., to give area farmers a glimpse at the effects of various irrigation strategies and the potential benefits of DroughtGard.
"I hope farmers understood that when we talk about drought we are really talking about a system that is, together with agronomic practices, the right breeding and then the correct trait," said Mark Edge, DroughtGard Hybrids marketing lead. "Putting those things together in a system is the best way to manage drought and, if we can, try to address those issues that we are facing this year."
Nearly 100 farmers turned out to learn about the new technologies in drought loss prevention. Through the field visit, farmers were able to see the current progress of corn that had been irrigated at different stages of the growing process. With less than eight inches of rainfall in the area thus far in 2012, irrigation was crucial.
"One thing we learned for sure is how much a little bit of water can do if it is applied at the right stage," said Safeer Hassan, technology development representative.
On stands that received more than nine inches of irrigated water, the corn was maintained vitality and high yielding ears. Rows that received only 4.25 inches of irrigated precipitation had already begun to wither and turn color, as well as produce sparse and undersized ears.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Drought Monitor, nearly all of the United States is currently suffering from some level of drought. At the Halstead test plot, the drought is rated as severe, and parts of Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Kansas and Arkansas are facing extreme droughts.
"Early indication is that under managed water situations where you have limited irrigation, the timing of the irrigation makes a big difference. The quantity of irrigation during that time makes a big difference, and the interaction with the DroughtGard is positive," Edge said.
Monsanto's goal is to minimize the adverse effects of these conditions. The 2012 drought that is expanding across the Midwest, coupled with the recording breaking drought in the Plains in 2011, has rapidly accelerated the demand for drought-tolerant crops.
The company is currently in the fourth phase of research and development for the first generation. According to Monsanto, this trait will be best utilized in the drier areas of the Great Plains. A second generation of drought-tolerant corn is also being explored, and is expected to be more suitable for growers in the Corn Belt.