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Battle for the drought-tolerant hybrid seed dollar

As drought-tolerant hybrids make their way to market, at least one agronomist thinks the Western Corn Belt could be ground zero for an all-out battle for market share.

"Drought-tolerant corn could expand seed companies' markets," says Kraig Roozeboom, Extension agronomist at Kansas State University. "Continued expansion of corn acreage at the expense of other crops, such as wheat and sorghum, will mean greater corn seed sales -- which is the most profitable sector of the seed market."

With Pioneer and Syngenta offering these drought-tolerant hybrids in limited release to the Western Corn Belt, and biotech hybrids in the pipeline, the battle will be on for dryland corn business.

Roozeboom says technology isn't the only reason new-generation corns are arriving so fast, compared to the new offerings for other standard crops. The seed industry for some time has been making larger investments in improving corn yields, largely because corn has been generating more dollars to invest. Herbicide- and insect-resistant corn varieties, for example, were earlier money-makers.

Market factors have been pulling agriculture toward increased corn production, Roozeboom says, which include worldwide demand for feed grains and ethanol production.

And the most promising expansion of the Corn Belt could come in regions that were once thought off-limits to corn production due to limited water resources. 

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