Commentary: Which drought-tolerant corn won?
According to the news releases about drought-tolerant corn grown in 2012, each company’s products performed better than one or more of their competitors. Each major seed company has issued news releases claiming some form of superiority.
Once I posted an edited version of one company’s version of success, I felt obligated to allow each major seed corn company to provide their claim to success, although edited. I edited out the name of competitors that are being trashed as inferior to another brand.
There might have been small footnotes that I missed as pertinent to claims, but I don’t think they altered what the seed companies were attempting to portray.
The thing I feel comfortable about is that each of the drought-tolerant seed technologies performed better than “conventional” hybrids during the drought.
Therefore, the technology being offered can provide an effective risk management tool to help growers stabilize yields in uncertain weather/rainfall conditions. Additionally, the drought-tolerant hybrids under good growing conditions or limited drought matched or exceeded the yield of comparable non-drought-tolerant hybrids.
If there is no yield drag for incorporating drought-tolerant technology into hybrids, then the companies ought to be including that technology in about every hybrid sold to help farmers increase yields. But that isn’t going to happen unless farmers are willing to pay even higher prices for their seed corn, which has increased substantially in recent years.
It should be noted that some trials were part of small-plot research and others were much more extensive with farmers planting seed, but here is what concerns me in trying to figure out what the drought-tolerant hybrids really accomplished, especially compared to each other:
First, there were the early yield results from Pioneer showing an 8 percent yield advantage with Optimum Aquamax in water-limited environments over competitive products. Then Monsanto issued its root research that showed Dekalb drought-tolerant corn yielded either 12 to 15 bushels per acre advantage against another drought-tolerant hybrid and a conventional hybrid at the Water Utilization Learning Center in Nebraska. Dow AgroSciences then included a statement that its drought-tolerant hybrids matched or exceeded yields of competitive drought-tolerant hybrids in U.S. trials as part of news about investments in plant breeding. And finally, Syngenta jumped in with its announcement that under severe and extreme drought conditions, its Agrisure Artesian technology hybrids yielded 16.8 percent higher than competitive hybrids with and without drought-tolerance technology.
I’m sure these major seed companies can justify their results based on how the comparison trials and/or research was set up and which competitive products were compared, but it is confusing and causes people to question what is going on.