ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Monsanto has been successful in initiating its “Groundbreaker Program” for DroughtGard corn with farmers in the Plains where corn is typically grown with less rainfall than a major portion of the Corn Belt.

This is the first year for DroughtGard genetically modified corn to be planted by typical farmers in the states of South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The various DroughtGard hybrid numbers are being evaluated for their agronomic properties and yield potential under limited water conditions. The hybrids are bred to produce higher yield than other hybrids from the same amount of soil moisture and rainfall.

The goal going into this spring by Monsanto was to have 250 farmers plant up to 40 acres each for on-farm evaluation. That means between 6,000 and 7,000 acres have been planted.

“It is not so much about the number of acres as the number of locations that the hybrids are planted,” said Mark Edge, corn product development launch lead for DroughtGard. The company wants to see performance in variable conditions “across a large geography.”

“There is a lot of excitement and a lot of anticipation by the farmers evaluating DroughtGard hybrids," Edge said. The farmers will oversee the hybrids and be in charge of combining the small fields.

The hybrids are Roundup Ready Corn 2 , VT2 Pro and VT3 Pro, which means all three hybrid types being field tested by farmers are Roundup resistant, and some also provide above ground insect protection and others provide above and below ground insect protection. Maturity of the hybrids varies from 95 days to 115 days.

The current DroughtGard answer for improved yield from limited water is the only Monsanto platform from which various hybrids will be developed and introduced in the coming few years. Edge said another type of limited-water hybrid platform is several years behind for possible commercial introduction.

The farmers who planted DroughtGard hybrids this year have signed contracts to use the grain harvested for livestock feed. It is not to be mixed into grain that might be sold for export.