DuPont Pioneer announced its scientists have made a significant advancement in developing corn plants that successfully withstand drought stress.  In an edition of the scientific publication, Plant Biotechnology Journal, Pioneer scientists reveal a new finding that higher yielding corn plants succeed under drought conditions when naturally occurring ethylene stress hormone levels in the plant are reduced through a transgene. The study, “Transgenic Alteration of Ethylene Biosynthesis Increases Grain Yield in Maize under Field Drought-Stress Conditions” by Jeff Habben and colleagues is the most in-depth research effort of its kind reported to date in peer-reviewed scientific literature.

The Pioneer research spanned testing in multiple locations in numerous genetic backgrounds over two years. Habben, scientist and lead author of the article, explained that corn breeders at Pioneer have been developing hybrids that are productive under drought stress conditions for more than 80 years, starting its first drought-specific breeding program in York, Neb. in the mid-1950s.

Ethylene is a stress hormone prevalent in almost all plants, but in highly variable levels depending on plant type, plant tissue, and stress conditions.

The identified transgenic approach has the additional benefit of enhanced nitrogen use efficiency, resulting in another potential management tool for farmers.