Building the Corn Hybrid of the Future

Sponsored by Bayer

Scientists at Bayer are redefining how hybrids are developed to reduce risk from pests, disease and weather.

Data Drives Corn Hybrid Innovation

Information from modeling, artificial intelligence and machine learning help Bayer bring proven products to the field more quickly.

By Jason Jenkins

In April 1860, the fastest means of sending communication between the East and West coasts of the United States was the now-fabled Pony Express. Yet, just 18 months after its inaugural rider left the stables in St. Joseph, Missouri, the Pony Express was out of business, thanks to the transcontinental telegraph.

A similar revolution is occurring in agriculture and plant breeding. With the help of modeling, artificial intelligence and machine learning, plant breeders at Bayer are unlocking the value hidden in data sets and speeding the delivery of products that meet farmers' needs and expectations.

"Yield is always the ultimate outcome, but there's so much more than just yield that goes into this," says Tom Eickhoff, Chief Science Officer at Climate LLC and Digital Farming, Bayer Crop Science."We leverage all the information we have in cutting edge data science. It's a huge opportunity for agriculture and our customers to drive productivity and sustainability across the industry."

While there are many different tools and data sets that Bayer puts in the hands of its scientists and crop breeders, the information falls into three basic areas, Eickhoff explains. The first is genomics. Scientists map the corn genome, learning what genes are responsible for desired traits such as drought tolerance, disease tolerance, pest resistance and standability. They also learn how genes interact with each other to produce other desirable attributes.

The second data set is collected when a corn line is placed in the field and interacts with the environment.

"The best corn hybrid for a particular grower might not be made exclusively by genes from products that were derived in the United States," Eickhoff says. "We're leveraging a vast and broad testing network that goes across the globe, allowing us to problem solve and accelerate our ability to deliver new, innovative products even faster."

Cornworm on green leaf

Finally, Bayer closes the data loop, bringing it full circle by creating a digital relationship with farmers through Climate FieldViewâ„¢ platform, gaining a better understanding of what's happening at the farm level with individual products, how they interact and how they're used.

"Farmers have been collecting data on their own operations for years, but the real key is how do you make that data start working for you?" Eickhoff asks. "FieldView allows farmers to visualize the data that's happening on their own farm and help improve things like productivity, profitability and sustainability."

Eickhoff adds that while over the course of a growing season challenges such as disease, insects and weed pressure all conspire to rob yield from farmers, Bayer offers a broad set of solutions like different trait packages, hybrid recommendations and planting densities that bring those together, through FieldView that helps the farmer gain additional information and insight to help guide their decisions. "When we can work with a customer who chooses to share their data through FieldView, we can then take the vast knowledge of our innovative pipeline –whether it's crop protection products or germplasm –and match them specifically to the needs of that customer," he says. "We can see opportunities for that customer to be more profitable."

Having such diverse data –and a model through which corn hybrid performance can be evaluated with genomics, lab testing and real-world field testing –helps Bayer to unlock additional value for its customers.

"There's no shortage of challenges that farmers are facing," Eickhoff says. "When we think about anticipating what the customers need, we must put ourselves in their shoes and really think about those challenges and how they're managing their farms. Then, we can connect that information back early in our pipeline to influence the way we're developing products."

Eickhoff cited Bayer's Smart Corn System as an example of a product that will be brought to market with this data-driven philosophy in mind. The short-stature corn hybrids were developed through Bayer's R&D pipeline specifically to improve standability and allow farmers in-season access to manage the crop, enabling growers to better manage risk and allow the crop to fully realize its yield potential.

"Data is helping deliver our breeding pipeline at so many different levels," he says. "Part of that is in the field, but it all starts in the lab. We put ourselves through a much higher standard than just throwing a bunch of products out and testing them. We can collect data on thousands of different corn lines and bring only the best to the field.

"Data allows Bayer to stay at the forefront of the industry," he continues. "The volume of data that is available to our scientists today is incredible, and the tools we put in their hands really accelerates their abilities. So, when we bring a product to market, we're not only lab proven, but we're also field proven."




Bayer is a member of Excellence Through Stewardship® (ETS). Bayer products are commercialized in accordance with ETS Product Launch Stewardship Guidance, and in compliance with Bayer,s Policy for Commercialization of Biotechnology-Derived Plant Products in Commodity Crops. Commercialized products have been approved for import into key export markets with functioning regulatory systems. Any crop or material produced from this product can only be exported to, or used, processed or sold in countries where all necessary regulatory approvals have been granted. It is a violation of national and international law to move material containing biotech traits across boundaries into nations where import is not permitted. Growers should talk to their grain handler or product purchaser to confirm their buying position for this product. Excellence Through Stewardship® is a registered trademark of Excellence Through Stewardship.

SmartStax® PRO corn products will be commercially available for the 2022 growing season.

ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. B.t. products may not yet be registered in all states. Check with your seed brand representative for the registration status in your state.

IMPORTANT IRM INFORMATION: RIB Complete® corn blend products do not require the planting of a structured refuge except in the Cotton-Growing Area where corn earworm is a significant pest. See the IRM/Grower Guide for additional information. Always read and follow IRM requirements.

Roundup Ready® 2 Technology contains genes that confer tolerance to glyphosate. Glyphosate will kill crops that are not tolerant to glyphosate. Herculex® is a registered trademark of Dow AgroSciences LLC. LibertyLink® and the Water Droplet Design® is a trademark of BASF Corporation. Respect the Refuge and Corn Design® and Respect the Refuge® are registered trademarks of National Corn Growers Association. Bayer, Bayer Cross, RIB Complete®, Roundup Ready 2 Technology and Design, Roundup Ready® and SmartStax® are trademarks of Bayer Group. ©2022 Bayer Group. All rights reserved.




ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW PESTICIDE LABEL DIRECTIONS. Bayer and Bayer Cross are registered trademarks of Bayer Group. ©2021 Bayer Group. All rights reserved.