DuPont Pioneer taps new disciplines to improve yields

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As part of its ongoing commitment to provide corn hybrids that offer greater yield potential for growers, DuPont Pioneer is tapping into new technologies and areas of scientific expertise. The company is seeking bright minds with diverse capabilities to help improve the genetic potential of hybrids sold to customers.

Corn breeding is changing as growers’ needs change. Breeders now can rely on a team of experts in diverse technical fields to help develop hybrids. “Plant breeders are still very important,” says Mark Cooper, DuPont Pioneer research director. “Today, however, they can count on help from experts in an array of different fields to make larger genetic gains for growers more efficiently.”  
Cooper cites four steps breeders require to develop improved hybrids.

  1. Technology. Tools such as molecular markers help locate genes that improve yield or other traits. Experts also apply doubled haploid technology to incorporate those traits into genetic lines more quickly and confidently.
  2. Seed production. Once they identify the genetic puzzle pieces, seed production experts develop inbreds that breeders use to produce commercially viable hybrids.
  3. Testing. Breeders then deploy their considerable experience to test new hybrids. They design the plots and collect data that help determine which hybrids work in specific growing environments and which don’t make the grade.
  4. Data analysis. Pioneer employs a corps of data-management experts who analyze the data, sifting valuable information from the irrelevant “noise.” Pioneer is applying increasingly advanced modeling programs to understand how genes convey traits to experimental lines. This helps Pioneer breeders better understand which genetic combinations are likely to produce improved hybrids.

“As we add mathematicians, modelers and statisticians, we improve our breeding methodology,” Cooper says. “Technologies and tools are constantly changing and improving. These experts help us improve efficiency, test more genetic lines, and grow even more confident in the results.”

Pioneer specialists can comb through masses of genetic information with advanced computing and modeling programs. “We’re continually refining the models,” Cooper says. “We combine the right data with the correct modeling programs to develop improved predictions.”

Pioneer conducts experiments across the globe to learn more about how corn hybrids perform in different growing environments. As they develop better products and understand where those new hybrids perform best, breeders are better positioned to support the Pioneer sales professionals who help customers place the right product on the right acre.

 “We’re also looking at phenotypes or physical data in a new way,” Cooper says. “We’re boosting the capacity to evaluate plants so we can realize more value from molecular markers and incorporate genes that impact traits of interest.”

Working with technical teams, breeders play a critical role in integrating this valuable array of information. They distill it all into improved hybrids growers need to produce food for the world.

To support corn breeders, Pioneer continues to employ the brightest minds in various science- and technology-related fields. “We hire people with expertise in the technologies we need now and will need in the future,” Cooper says. “Pioneer is investing in the future, making sure we can continue to offer growers better products year after year, decade after decade.”

Pioneer also supports universities that are launching the next generation of plant breeders, molecular scientists, data-management gurus and other technical experts. “We provide opportunities for people who want to make a difference and help feed a growing world population,” Cooper says. “While growers are the hub of food production efforts, they need our help to keep the wheel turning. The technical expertise we’re adding helps us meet growers’ needs.”

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