You can't blame Pioneer seed customers for not being able to tell all the company's players without a program this spring. Pioneer is introducing 16 new soybean varieties that represent its significantly higher-yielding Y series soybeans, in probably the biggest product launch in the company's history in the South.

“This is a very large number for us,” says Patrick Bracy, senior marketing manager for the Pioneer's Southern Market. “In the past, we've sometimes introduced one or two new varieties a year in this market.”

Bracy, interviewed at the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show in Memphis, Tenn., said some of the credit for the explosion in new varieties is due to the new Y Series soybeans that Pioneer has begun developing with its Accelerated Yield Technology.

Pioneer plans to offer enough seed to plant about 9 million acres of the Y series soybeans in more than 30 new varieties nationwide. The entire line has demonstrated a 5 percent yield advantage against key competitor varieties in 1,800 on-farm comparisons, with some yielding 6 percent to 10 percent better than competitors.

“This new Accelerated Yield Technology is allowing us to improve on yield and develop new varieties faster,” said Bracy. “By next year, we expect the Y series soybeans to make up 75 percent of our product portfolio. That would be almost a complete turnaround in varieties.”

Bracy said Pioneer officials believe they are at the start of a yield race as researchers begin to employ marker-assisted breeding tools and other new technological advances in its AYT system to build better soybean and corn plants.

“The goal of the AYT system is to improve yield gains from a half bushel per acre per year to more than a bushel per acre per year,” says John Soper, senior research director for soybean product development at Pioneer. “This means more profit for customers. Looking to the future, our goal is to increase soybean productivity by 40 percent in the next 10 years.”

The launch of the 16 new soybean varieties in the South represents a major investment for Pioneer, says Bracy. That's because each has undergone extensive testing in southern conditions before being selected for release in the region.

“We believe farmers prefer a regional approach,” he said. “They're looking for varieties that have proven to be best suited to their soils and growing conditions.”

For that reason, Pioneer has begun preparing suitability ratings for specific regions of the South that can help growers decide which of its corn hybrids and soybean varieties might be a better fit in their area.

Each region has a chart that indicates the past performance in key environments, specific management systems and in different soil types for each of the company's new hybrids and varieties. The chart also lists the comparative relative maturity for its corn hybrids and the relative maturity of each soybean variety.

The key environments for corn hybrids for farmers in west Tennessee, for example, include early planted hills, low yield dryland, high yield dryland and high yield irrigated. The management systems include corn on corn, high population (greater than 32,000), low population (less than 28,000), late planting and late harvest. The soils listed are heavy clay, poorly drained and sandy.