Under a punishing afternoon sun and against a backdrop of maturing, well-managed corn, Pioneer’s Scott Jungman seems out of place. This is, after all, a Terral Seed field day.
However, any surprise from the trailers full of attendees is muted once Jungman is introduced. It turns out the Greenville, Miss., field day was perfect for announcing a joint soybean and corn research and marketing agreement between Terral Seed and Pioneer Hi-Bred.
The companies promise the effort will be a revolution (the new Terral launch is, in fact, named “REVolution”) in providing Southern growers with region-specific offerings.
“This is the start of a revolution in genetics and traits,” says Jungman. “Pioneer is the world’s largest seed company, germ plasm and traits. Terral Seed is the Mid-South’s leading tester/researcher of hybrids and varieties for the nine unique environments you guys farm.”
Jungman points to a map showing where Pioneer’s major research stations are located. While the map is littered with dots representing the stations, “there’s a big hole where we’re sitting” currently. Terral’s research facilities fill that gap. The new partnership “is very complementary in terms of where (Pioneer) does its testing and where Terral does its testing.”
Pioneer has the world’s largest bank of germ plasm and traits. Terral researchers “will now take it to the next level. They’ll sort through (Pioneer’s bank) and, through breeding and testing, will find the products that work for you on your farm.
“That’s what the ‘REVolution’ is about: taking it to a new yield level. And we’ll provide the traits you need, not the traits someone forces on you.”
The phrase “over-traited and overrated” is repeatedly used during the tour. Jungman explains why Southern growers should care.
“Let’s talk about a specific trait,” he says, pointing to a photo of corn rootworm damage. “I’m going to guess there isn’t a person here that’s seen this on their farm. This is the most damaging insect in corn, but it’s a northern Corn Belt pest.”
There is a trait to deal with the pest, but “you should be saying, ‘so what? I don’t know that I need (a trait to combat it).’ That’s because if you look at a (rootworm distribution) map, trying to get the right product on the right acre, it’ll show corn rootworm” isn’t in the Mid-South. The trait, which some Mid-South farmers may be paying for, simply isn’t needed.
“I was with a guy last night at the casino who’d been in a whiskey-tasting contest. It’s fair to say he was ‘over-tasted.’ He woke up with a bad hangover this morning. And that’s kind of like somebody who is paying for (crop) traits they don’t need — they’re ‘over-traited.’”
One of things Pioneer spokesmen often refer to is AYT — Accelerated Yield Technology. Terral Seed will also benefit from AYT, says Jungman.
“It’s really simple: AYT uses marker genes and puts them on things we want, like yield, strong stalks and strong roots. Marker genes make it very simple to sample a plant and tell you if it has a (desirable) gene for yield, a gene for stalk or roots. So, we could take a leaf sample and tell you if it has a certain gene.”
The result is more efficient breeding program. Because of that, “Terral Seed — our partner in the Mid-South — has a better starting point to build on. This year alone, Pioneer will test 10 times more inbreds than it did in the previous 80 years of our company. That’s genetic diversity, that’s what we bring to the game.”
To further illustrate the genetics Terral now has access to, Jungman brings up the National Corn Growers Association’s eight annual contests. “There’s irrigated, dryland, ridge-till, no-till and four others. There are also three places, so that means there are 24 potential winners.”
Of the 24 potential winners, the industry’s largest player — “our friends from up the river,” says Jungman, had five winners.
“Rumor has it those five hybrids all share a parent. That isn’t genetic diversity. That isn’t what will carry you in the nine unique environments” Mid-South growers farm in.
Of the 24 NCGA winners, 17 were Pioneer. Of those 17 winners, 12 were unique hybrids. Of the 12 winners, “there could be 24 parents. Of those 24 parents, 23 were unique.
“Okay, that’s great and I’m happy for Pioneer. But I’m here for Terral. Well, Terral has access and uses all 23 of those inbreds. There’s no governor, no restrictor plate, nothing stopping Terral from sorting through and picking (those genetics). That’s genetic diversity. That’s what will help you win.”
So, what about traits that are needed in the Mid-South corn?
• Drought One.
“This is a non-transgenic and based on accelerated yield technology and molecular markers. It means a 5 percent yield improvement in stressful — less than 150-bushel — environments. You guys are getting that today with the Terral REV hybrids.
• Drought Two.
“This is a transgene, a drought gene you’ve heard about. It’s coming in three to five years.”
• NUE — Nitrogen Use Efficiency.
“This is transgene and coming in three to five years. Over two years, it has given 5 to 17 percent yield improvements. So, we can see additional yield in a low nitrogen environment and … also in environments where you do put on normal amounts of nitrogen.”
• GAT — Glyphosate ALS Tolerance.
“There’s quite a bit of corn and soybeans with (the GAT trait) here. I don’t care what kind of glyphosate you use, it has tolerance. It also has ALS, the cheapest, broadest spectrum of chemistry available — low use rate, has soil residual and works in both corn and beans. …There will be limited GAT varieties until 2011, when (the trait) is up to speed in both crops.”
The soybean trait side of REVolution will be “just as dominant,” promised Jungman.
• High oleic — a value-added oil.
“I don’t know what they’ll pay extra for it. But, right now, we anticipate about 25 to 30 percent of the market going in that direction. We have it and the good news is we’re using forward-breeding techniques. That means it comes with our best varieties, with yield and the traits you want.”
• Soybean rust.
“You probably haven’t had a lot of experience with (Asian) soybean rust. One day it will be a major problem. We’ll have transgenic resistance to it in a few years.
“In conclusion,” says Jungman, “we’re extremely excited to be part of the ‘REVolution.’ It’s a marriage of two of the best companies out there.”