The hybrid, or hybrids, which, for now, carry the name “Aflatoxin Advantage,” probably won’t be released commercially for another two or three years. But they promise to help revolutionize southern corn production when they reach the market.

With the rains that have fallen throughout much of the growing season, aflatoxin is not expected to be a major problem in Mid-South cornfields in 2003. But it won’t take another extremely dry year, such as 1998, to cause growers to dread seeing the sampling probe go into their loads of corn at the elevator.

“We’re so far South that we have aflatoxin problems in corn somewhere in our territory nearly every year,” says Donnie “Dr. Donnie” Glover, research manager for Terral Seed and manager of the Terral Research Station near Greenville, Miss.

“It might just be a small amount, but even a small amount can result in big problems for growers.”

Many Mid-South farmers turned away from corn after seeing truckloads of the grain turned away from elevators because of high levels of aflatoxin, a by-product of the fungal pathogen Aspergillus flavus.

Corn acres have only now built back to 1998 levels in most of the Mid-South states after two years of more abundant rainfall helped alleviate the appearance of aflatoxin.

Glover says Terral’s new Roundup Ready hybrids, which are being developed with genetic inbreds from Argentina, have three important characteristics – very hard kernels, superior shuck coverage and good drought tolerance – for warding off aspergillus flavus.

“We have found that if you have hard kernels, good shuck coverage and good drought tolerance – all season – you generally have reduced levels of aspergillus flavus – and aflatoxin,” he said.

The inbreds were discovered near Santa Fe, Argentina. “Santa Fe is about the same latitude as Greenville, Miss., so the growing conditions are very similar,” says Glover. (Terral has a research facility in Santa Fe, a corn pollinating facility in Hawaii and a two-season nursery in Costa Rica.)

Glover says Terral is working on Roundup Ready and conventional versions of these hybrids.

“These are not among our higher yielding varieties under irrigation, but they do well in dryland conditions,” he noted. “They have to have acceptable yield or we won’t introduce them.”

“These are pilot products this year,” he said. “They will probably be in the university trials next year to help determine how they produce in other environments.”

Meanwhile, Terral is introducing three new corn hybrids from Glover’s breeding program in 2004, along with four new soybean varieties, three new grain sorghum varieties and two new wheat varieties.

All were developed in the Mid-South and tested under Mid-South conditions before being planted for seed increase in Argentina and Costa Rica. “We like to say that our varieties are bred in the Mid-South for Mid-South growers,” said Thomas Terral, president of the Lake Providence, La.-based company.

In 2003, Terral has nearly 50,000 research plots at the Greenville facility and 12 other farms across the Mid-South. “That includes 25,000 new lines of soybeans, from which we will probably produce two or three new varieties,” said Glover. “It also includes 2,000 corn hybrids, 1,000 grain sorghum lines and 1,500 wheat lines.

“Our motto is ‘Lots of work…proven yield,’ and we believe in doing that for our customers.”

The new corn hybrids include:

  • Terral TV24R10, a 114-day maturity Roundup Ready corn that has good drought tolerance. It’s designed for pushing yields at higher plant populations, said Bruce Jones, Terral’s field sales manager for Louisiana. “It has excellent ear retention, excellent root quality, very hard kernel texture and exceptional test weight.”
  • Terral TV25B30, a 115-day maturity hybrid similar to TV2155Bt in yield. It will demonstrate improved stalk strength and shuck coverage, along with a harder textured kernel with excellent test weight.
  • Terral TV26B23, a 114- to 116-day Bt corn that is similar to TV2160Bt in yield and has very good MDMV and anthracnose tolerance. It also has very good common and Southern rust tolerance, excellent stay green characteristics. It is a flex ear type hybrid with hard kernels and displays very good seedling vigor, he said.
The new soybean varieties include:
  • Terral TV47R12, a 4.7 maturity Roundup Ready soybean that is adapted primarily for the area north of Interstate 20 in the Mid-South. “A jam-up soybean,” according to Greg Matheny, Terral’s field sales manager for southeast Arkansas and north Mississippi, “It performs best planted on clay soils early in the Group IV window and responds very well to flood irrigation.”
  • Terral TV49R12, a 4.9 maturity Roundup Ready soybean that is adapted for planting from the Gulf to northern Arkansas. “It is tolerant to stem canker, phytopthora root rot and frogeye leaf spot. It will handle 7.5- to 38-inch row spacings and flood or furrow irrigation,” says Matheny. “This will be one of the highest yielding Group 4s available in the Mid-South”.
  • Terral TV56R12, a 5.6 maturity Roundup Ready soybean that is similar in performance to TV56R11 except that it has a better disease package that includes excellent tolerance to cercospora. “Like TV56R11, TV56R12 will be a ‘race horse’ variety capable of producing yields of 60 to 70 bushels per acre and is broadly adapted throughout the Mid-South,” says Matheny.
  • Terral TV58R12, a 5.8 maturity Roundup Ready soybean that appears to have an excellent fit on clay soils with flood irrigation,” he notes. “It has an excellent disease and nematode package, including resistance to root-knot nematodes. The latter makes it a very good candidate for rotation with cotton.”
New grain sorghum varieties include:
  • Terral TV96H81, which Clyde Smith, Terral’s field sales manager for central and northeast Mississippi, described as the highest yielding variety available today. “Nothing on this farm looks better than this,” he said. “We know that grain sorghum is a tough plant and an excellent rotation choice for fields with root-knot nematode.”
  • Terral TV93S72, a variety Smith describes as “a quick rising star in Arkansas. It’s adapted across all soil types and has a very good drought tolerance, which it has to have in the South,” said Smith. “It also has excellent tolerance to charcoal root rot.”
  • Terral TV97H17, a variety “with excellent head exertion,” according to Smith. “This variety produces top yields and a lot of organic matter, which can be important for rotation on our sandy soils.”
e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com