Confidence in drought-tolerant corn performance
Syngenta’s technology process was different than some other breeding, Fithian further explained. In some cases, having a whole “section of chromosome,” instead of picking specific genes in the breeding process, results in negative genes coming along for the ride. Those genes could actually work against yield improvement and/or drought tolerance. Those negative genes were not pulled along in the Artesian breeding process.
Fithian said, Artesian was developed using a “combination of validated genes, which allows us to say multiple modes of action” for improving yield in drought conditions or more normal weather. “There is no downside to these hybrids,” he said.
Heat tolerance and drought tolerance are two different things, and Syngenta as well as other hybrid corn companies have not seemed to tackle the heat tolerance aspect very much to this point. But Fithian noted how “heat stress is what a plant experiences when it is under drought stress.” This means there definitely is a lot of correlation between a hybrid tolerating drought and also tolerating heat. Additional study of the extreme heat impact will continue, and this year has been one to allow some inroads into the investigation between what genes help the plant control heat stress and ones that help control drought stress.
The proof on yield advantage is yet to come, but harvest is beginning quite early this year because of an early spring and all the heat units that rapidly matured the crop.