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Source: Monsanto news release

A root comparison study conducted this season at Monsanto's Gothenburg Water Utilization Learning Center in Gothenburg, Neb., provided a dramatic demonstration of just how important a deep, strong root structure is to help corn plants withstand drought conditions.

The research program evaluated the performance of a DEKALB® drought-tolerant corn product versus two competitor products - a Pioneer® Optimum® AQUAmax™ hybrid and a shallow-rooted product. A root dig conducted in mid-September showed that the DEKALB product had a significantly deeper, more evenly spread root structure than the other two products.

The result was healthier ears and a yield advantage for DEKALB of 12 bu./A versus Pioneer Optimum AQUAmax and 15 bu./A versus the shallow-rooted product.

Michael Petersen, former soil scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, compared the DEKALB root structure to a thick, vertical carrot that extended down 85 inches. In comparison, he said the Pioneer Optimum AQUAmax roots were primarily limited to 24 inches in depth and 20 inches for the shallow- rooted product.

"DEKALB has really been a leader in the development of what's going on below ground, so they can produce 700 to 800 kernels per ear," said Petersen, who now serves as lead agronomist with Orthman Manufacturing, a tillage and earth-moving company which participated in the root dig excavation. "And when they do that, we know that we can produce big corn."

Petersen said because more water and more nutrients are contained from 30 to 80 inches below ground, deeper roots can help plants withstand lengthy drought stress. "We see that when we have a deeper root system, it has a chance to be able to get water from all of that soil profile compared with only taking it predominantly from the upper 20 inches," he explained.

Mark Reiman, Gothenburg Learning Center agronomist, said all three products received minimal irrigation, requiring the plants to stretch their roots, until around Aug. 1, at which time the water was shut off and plants had to cope with hot, dry conditions.

"Deep, strong roots mean that your plants are going to be anchored to the soil very well," he said. "They are going to have a chance of rooting down and accessing the soil moisture and using that to help farmers protect their yield in a drought year."

Reiman said despite moisture stress, the DEKALB product had healthier, more consistent corn ears compared with the other two products. "We actually saw very nice corn ears that had no tip back," he said. "They were filled nicely, pollinated nicely, from the end of the ear to the tip of the ear. In contrast, kernel set was spotty and ear size was less consistent with the competitive brands."

This December DEKALB will continue a tradition of introducing innovative new products with the stewarded introduction of Genuity® DroughtGard™ Hybrids in the Western Great Plains for 2013 planting. These products combine the DEKALB brand's drought-tolerant genetics, developed through the brand's industry leading breeding program, with the industry's first drought-tolerant biotech trait and agronomic practices.

The DEKALB DroughtGard Hybrids available for planting in 2013 delivered farmers more than 5 bu./A versus competitor products in field trails this year.

"The Gothenburg root dig demonstrated the superiority of DEKALB drought-tolerant genetics," Reiman said. "Combining those breeding genetics with the new drought-tolerant biotech trait in DroughtGard Hybrids will mean the potential for even more powerful yield protection for DEKALB farmers in 2013."

To see time-lapse photos of the root dig and video interviews with the participants, visit

For more information about DEKALB, farmers can contact their local DEKALB Dealer, visit and follow its business on

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