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While no-tillers are already relying on crop residue to help make more efficient use of available water, the development of drought-tolerant corn will help stabilize yields when Mother Nature doesn’t deliver needed rains.
Being billed as the next major breakthrough in technology within the next half dozen years, drought-tolerant corn hybrids will likely be the first in a new family of water-utilization traits. Over the next 10 years, these developments offer the potential to reduce irrigation costs (which can now run over $100 per acre) and reduce the impact of untimely drought stress in rain-fed areas.
Some 85 percent of the U.S. corn crop normally suffers from various degrees of drought stress in any given year. These losses total more than $3 billion annually, or an average of $32.60 for every acre of corn.
Monsanto officials estimate that there are 80 million acres in the U.S., 30 million acres in Brazil and 6 million acres in Argentina that could benefit from drought-tolerant technology. With droughts already causing worldwide losses of more than $8 billion a year, global warming concerns could push future losses even higher.
With a combination of drought tolerance, molecular breeding and triple stacking, dryland corn yields in the Great Plains could average 121 bushels per acre by 2015 compared to only 88 bushels in 2005, according to Robb Fraley, Monsanto’s chief of technology.
“Taking traits to the next level with drought tolerance is going to be a significant step forward in managing dry years,” says Bruce Howison…