Irrigation & Drought-tolerant Corn Varieties Go Hand-in-Hand

We’ve been talking for some time now about a boom in irrigation systems going up in the Carolinas. George Stabler, Area Agronomist, Pioneer Hi-bred South Carolina and western North Carolina says it’s his opinion that producers are making the investment looking to the next generation:

“I think to continue farming into the next generation it’s something that we are going to have to move more into. There is even a large increase of irrigation going into rented land; five years ago we wouldn’t even think about that. But for farmers who can get a long term lease, they see it as something for them and the land owner that is very feasible with current prices and is needed for longevity.” 

It would appear to be an oxymoron…drought tolerant corn varieties and irrigation. But Stabler says it’s always going to take water to make grain, and that’s where irrigation comes in, even on drought tolerant varieties:

“Drought tolerance is a very hot topic right now. There are a lot of first generation products and Pioneer is leading the way in drought tolerant varieties. We have some products we are looking at right now that I hope will be good products moving forward. But we aren’t there yet for a truly drought tolerant product. But you are always going to need water to make grain.” 

Stabler says that while the first generation of drought tolerant corn is good, the second generation from Pioneer will be even better:

“Pioneer is introducing some drought tolerant products in some areas this year. Farmers are interested in looking at these products, but farmers also realize that are still a certain amount of dry land acres out there that they just can’t irrigate. If they want to grow the high end type products, the high yield 200 bushel per acre, they need to figure to maximize both the dry end side and the irrigated side.” 

Stabler had this advice for growing corn under irrigation, no matter the variety:

“Starting irrigation early is a big key to irrigation management. Don’t be concerned that its too early, even the B6 state or the corn isn’t at tassling yet. And don’t cut it off early, instead finish it off late carrying the corn all the way to black layer. If you are going to put the money in irrigation make sure you start early and finish late.”  

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