DuPont has joined the DROught-Tolerant Plants (DROPS) Research Consortium, contributing expertise and a state-of-the-art modeling platform for maize research for use by the consortium.

DROPS, a European Commission-sponsored consortium, is developing novel tools and breeding strategies that advance drought-tolerance research in maize and other crop plants. As a member, DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred will share expertise in drought research to help bring solutions for drought tolerance faster through science.

“Drought is a universal challenge that must be addressed to feed a hungry planet. It will take many of us working together in collaborations, like DROPS, to bring farmers solutions for combating drought globally,” said John Soper, vice president, Pioneer Crop Genetics Research and Development. “Innovations developed through this collaboration will complement our own research program, which has been providing solutions for farmers for more than 80 years.”

Drought tolerance is a complex issue, involving many genes with overlapping/interacting effects. Water is the single largest input to agriculture, with irrigation estimated to account for 70 percent of the total use of fresh water. Because of the complexity, field testing can be costly and time consuming. Modeling tools such as this platform are helping to improve the efficiency and to shorten the timelines for analysis and crop development.

The Pioneer maize crop modeling platform, developed through a long-term collaboration between Pioneer and researchers at the University of Queensland, facilitates the efficient advancement and development of drought-tolerant hybrids, ultimately helping growers meet the increasing demands on agricultural productivity. This unique platform allows researchers to input a number of specific characteristics about how experimental plants behave under test conditions, and facilitates prediction of those few that will respond best under drought conditions in the field.

“The modeling capability is state-of-the-art and incorporates the most recent understanding of crop responses to drought,” said Prof. Graeme Hammer, leader of the University of Queensland team, and DROPS consortium member. “Pioneer scientists will work together with consortium scientists to improve the modeling platform so that it can accept even more traits, thereby increasing the precision and accuracy of the platform. Members of the consortium will then have access to the resulting advanced modeling platform to facilitate their further drought research in a number of crops.

The DROPS Consortium was initiated by the Institut National de la Recherché Agronomique (INRA) of France through the project leader Francois Tardieu. It brings together 15 leading researchers and their respective organizations to develop solutions for drought in important crops including maize. Representatives from the group met recently to set out work plans. Pioneer is the only U.S.-based member of the European-led consortium. Tardieu noted, “The DROPS consortium brings together an unprecedented mix of leading global expertise to tackle the grand challenge of improving crop adaptation to drought.”

Pioneer established the first research center dedicated to the development of drought-tolerant maize in 1957. Pioneer researchers have doubled maize yield per inch of rainfall since 1970 and today offer hybrids that deliver a yield advantage in water-limited environments, and offer top-end yield potential under optimal growing conditions, allowing growers to help minimize risk and maximize productivity on every acre.

Source: DuPont