GROWERS IN the western Corn Belt may be able to buy some of the first hybrids marketed as drought-tolerant from Pioneer Hi-Bred for the 2010 crop. The hybrids called Drought I contain native corn drought-tolerance genes so they will not need regulatory approvals for commercialization or export. Pioneer reports it will launch the new hybrids after final evaluation based on field trials.

The hybrids will be marketed in dryland and limited-irrigation growing environments where yields are lower due to inadequate rainfall.

“We have identified genes that allow the corn plant to significantly improve in both areas — the plant's ability to capture more resources such as water, sunlight and nutrients and to allow for better utilization — in other words, improving the plant's effectiveness in using resources,” states Jeff Schussler, Pioneer senior research manager.

Pioneer reports that Drought I hybrids should produce 5 to 10% better than current hybrids in the same drought conditions.