This was the first year for DuPont Pioneer Optimum AQUAmax hybrids. In some ways, it may have been a great year to show what they can do. In the hardest hit areas where drought and heat stress were devastating, what farmers learned is that many of these up and coming hybrids designed to withstand more drought-like conditions have their limits. They are drought-tolerant, not drought resistant. If the drought was severe enough, yields on these hybrids were severely affected, just as they were on conventional hybrids that don't have these traits.
The Optimum AQUAmax hybrids from Pioneer used non-GMO breeding to make better use of water. In the future, experts expect that the industry will use a combination of conventional breeding and GMO-traits to come up with corn hybrids that can better withstand drought.
Pioneer looked at the new hybrids in more than 2,500 trials across the country. According to results just released, the hybrids with the trait excelled versus other hybrids without the trait 69% of the time. The average yield increase was 8.1%. This is in line with what Pioneer reps have been saying you could expect from using the Optimum AQUAmax genetics. It's just that this year an 8% increase might mean 108 bushels per acre vs. 1000. It doesn't mean 150 bushels per acre where other hybrids made 100 bushels per acre.
The average yield for the Pioneer hybrid in those water-limited plots was 97 bushels per acre.
Pioneer also looked at the trait where water was not limiting, in other words, primarily in irrigated plots. The goal was to see if the hybrid could compete with elite genetics if there wasn't a shortage of water.
Out of more than 1,600 of these plots, the Optimum AQUAmax hybrids still won 59% of the time, with an average yield increase of 1.8%. The average yield was over 200 bushels per acre.