Scientists at Bayer are redefining how hybrids are developed to reduce risk from pests, disease and weather.
When Troy Uphoff of Findlay, Illinois, selects seed corn for the growing season, he knows it's more complicated than just picking the top-yielding hybrid from field trials. There are many other variables in the equation.
"We concentrate on a core of four to five hybrids each year, choosing them based on their unique characteristics," says Uphoff, who farms in partnership with his parents, Tony and Deanna. "Where it's corn on corn, we'll select a reliable workhorse hybrid. In areas where it tends to stay on the wet side, we'll choose a hybrid that handles moisture well. On some of our fields that are flat and have a complete tile system, we'll plant that racehorse hybrid and give it everything it needs for maximum yield."
Uphoff–who produced the top yield entry in Illinois for 2020 in the conventional/non - irrigated class of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) 56th annual yield contest–isn't alone. Whether they grow corn in Illinois, Ohio or Ontario, producers require hybrids tailored with traits that help to optimize their yield potential and maximize their return on investment.
"Our philosophy of breeding is focused on the farmer and how we can bring them new innovations," says Dave Baitinger, Seed Production Engineering Team Lead for Bayer. "It's about providing better solutions that help farmers to produce more with fewer inputs, and to be more profitable and do so in a sustainable, long- term way."
Using the latest in genomic technologies and artificial intelligence, plant breeders at Bayer create solutions that address growers' individual agronomic practices, their local environments and their field- level needs. Gone are the days of a "one size fits all" approach.
"With our portfolios, we're able to give growers a lot of different options to choose from," says Trent Yantes, Head of Trait and Pipeline Delivery for Bayer. "We can offer solutions that are really set up for their operation and farming practices."
Yantes explains that the Bayer precision breeding model allows their teams to engineer the corn genome to create products that help to provide the most beneficial outcomes for specific situations. This prescriptive approach gives growers greater confidence when planting into varying soil types in different geographies with distinct climate, disease and pest pressures.
"Today, we're looking holistically at genomics and our germplasm pool from around the world," Yantes says. "Instead of a few scientists testing at one location, we have hundreds of scientists testing in multiple environments. Our testing network is robust and allows us to find geographies where certain traits have a better niche for a specific market."
Tom Jury, Head of North America Field Testing at Bayer, says the ultimate objective with the company's testing program is to mirror the grower's conditions, ensuring that hybrid selection takes place in the same environments that growers face.
"Because we understand the factors that drive performance for an individual grower, we can now look to design products that are built for what our individual customers want and need," he adds. "With the concept of precision breeding, we have enough genomic information to design what we want out of our germplasm. When tested under those specific conditions, it increases the probability that what we're putting in the ground is exactly what the grower needs and increases the likelihood of success to the grower."
Unlocking the potential in the seed requires Bayer researchers to understand both the underlying genetic drivers of yield as well as how those lines perform in various environmental conditions. They must account for multiple variables– from geography and soil type to tillage and management practices– when putting together the "whole package" for the grower.
In Uphoff's case, this approach, combined with seed treatment, a foliar feeding program and fungicide applications helped him achieve a yield of nearly 324 bushels per acre.* That not only earned him the NCGA National Corn Yield Contest recognition, but his yield also topped the more than 800 entries from Illinois across all contest categories.
"As a farmer, you want to do what's right for the environment." Uphoff says. "You also want to do what's right for your bottom line and profitability. That's why we really like technology in the seed. We embrace the technology to produce the yields of tomorrow.
"Bayer has always brought us some of the best technology available, but it goes beyond the traits," he says. "We've developed a great relationship, and when you have that team of people there, helping you to get the right product on the right acre, you can't beat it. It truly gives us that opportunity to grow the best yields."------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Grower results may not be typical.
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