The 2011 Optimum AQUAmax products will include five hybrids in a variety of maturity groups and technology packages.

What about seed prices?

Pioneer will price the new hybrids “for the value that the product delivers the customer, very consistent with the way we price our other products,” said Patterson. “Products will be competitively priced in the marketplace.”

Any plans to go international with the new hybrids?

Current products “have been specifically developed for growers in North America,” said Patterson. “Whether Pioneer expands these hybrids to other markets globally certainly depends on our breeding programs there and the needs of the markets in other regions of the globe.”

Is there any yield advantage for the new hybrids when they get adequate/timely rainfall?

A proprietary environmental monitoring system “allows us to collect meteorological data at research sites and to utilize that data in a plant-growth model that allows us to understand severity of drought stress at each location,” saidSchussler.“In general, we use that to split out our research sites into ‘stress’ and ‘non-stress’ locations so we can very clearly understand the performance of these hybrids in both those types of environments.”

For “fairly severe drought-stressed locations, (normal) yield levels are always below 150 bushels per acre – often, more like 100 bushels per acre. … When we compare (the new hybrids) to other environments where yields were higher and there was irrigation/higher rainfall, we see yield parity and no yield penalty.”

Patterson claimed the “really exciting thing we’ve seen is two-fold. In one respect, we’re seeing a yield advantage under water-limited conditions. On the other hand, the AQUAmax hybrids are also offering excellent yield potential under more favorable growing conditions – throughout the central Corn Belt, for instance.”

Any visual differences in the new hybrids are “very small -- nothing the farmer will see as very dramatic,” said Schussler. “We just know these hybrids … have been able to partition water more efficiently towards grain growth. But they aren’t particularly different in plant size, height or leaf appearance.”  

Pioneer waited to release the hybrids until they were in “elite genetics and the technology packages our customers are requesting in the target environments,” said Patterson. “In 2010, we did a large-scale, on-farm systems trial with growers … just to verify on-farm performance in real world conditions. We’re really excited to report we’ve seen an average 5 percent yield advantage very consistently across the target market.”