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Trait Scores Help Growers Make Informative Seed Selections


Pioneer seed rating charts offer field-by-field management

DES MOINES, Iowa. – While the potential yield of each hybrid or variety are key selection criteria for producers, plant breeders from Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont business, recommend growers keep in mind the trait characteristics important to each field. Trait scores offer growers the ability to further customize seed selections. By evaluating growing conditions on a field-by-field basis, growers can select traits needed from each seed product.

Selecting seed for the next season is an ongoing process for growers – beginning with observing conditions throughout the growing season and harvest and continuing with seed choice evaluation post-harvest and comparing yields. As harvest wraps up this fall, growers will focus on final seed decisions for 2009.

“Our data for characterization rating charts provide growers with better indications of product performance for agronomic and disease traits relevant to their situation,” says Bill Curran, Pioneer research scientist.

Growers plant varieties or hybrids with a specific expectation level. When a grower plants a corn hybrid with a good stalk strength score, the hybrid has shown in testing and evaluation to have good stalk strength. When a grower plants a soybean variety with a good sudden death syndrome (SDS) score, that particular variety has shown good resistance to SDS.

Characterization charts offer growers this type of risk management. Pioneer uses a 1 to 9 system, with 9 reflecting superior performance for a given trait. Scores for characterization charts are derived through years of compiled research. Developing a trait score requires research in several growing-environment conditions.

“We expose hybrids and varieties to many environmental, disease and pest challenges and then evaluate how well that seed performs,” says Joe Keaschall, Pioneer research director. “Managed environments are selected for specific traits to magnify differences between seed products to get the best score in extreme conditions.”

Pioneer gathers information in a variety of ways, including testing in a wide range of field plots, testing artificially in laboratories, using proprietary assay techniques and, more recently, using molecular fingerprints to understand performance probabilities. Molecular markers allow researchers to examine the DNA of inbreds, hybrids and varieties to determine traits before field testing.

Before assigning a trait score to a hybrid or variety, researchers have collected multiple data points over a period of years. “Once trait data are collected and analyzed, they are classified using a proprietary system for trait scoring. A score is not assigned until there are relevant comparisons with widely grown benchmark hybrids.” says Curran.

“We continually work to refine our scoring methodologies to provide the most reliable, accurate information,” says Keaschall. “Knowing the key characteristics of our products – how well a product performs given the growing conditions and environment – offers a grower the ability to choose the best hybrid or variety for each field"

With high commodity and input prices, the stakes are even higher for growers when it comes to deciding which hybrids or varieties to purchase for 2009.

“For example, if a grower knows an area on the farm has a higher chance of brittle snap, gray leaf spot or other conditions, a hybrid that matches those concerns can be selected,” says Keaschall. “Growers need to understand their fields and environments and make a choice by prioritizing the highest areas of concerns, choosing a variety or hybrid that offers the highest probability of success.

“Every seed company offers growers trait scores, but growers cannot take one company’s scores and compare the scores to another company,” says Keaschall. “Along with selecting hybrids and varieties for agronomic scoring traits, Pioneer characterization charts also offer scores for special use. Growers will find ratings for livestock producers and ethanol processors with scores including silage tonnage, fiber digestibility, extractable starch content, total fermentables and other relevant scores for specific end use.”

Using a characterization chart is an important part of the hybrid and variety selection process for growers.

“Pioneer suggests growers consult with their sales professional and review what qualities are important to each field and make a choice based on that information,” says Keaschall. “Each year always brings new challenges to growers. This year we have seen a very diverse growing season. We suggest growers continue to make sound decisions based on their individual fields and product performance goals for the upcoming season.”

“We collect data throughout the plant life cycle,” says Curran. “Consistency on the front end though multiple testing and evaluation makes the data we use to determine trait scores more reliable, and Pioneer has the most reliable scoring systems on the market today.”


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