It’s official…corn is coming. With the snip of an inordinately large pair of scissors Wednesday, at a new research centre near Lethbridge, AB, DuPont Pioneer Canada officially re-confirmed its commitment to the development of new and improved — earlier and higher yielding — field corn varieties for Western Canada.
The company which has been involved in seed business for more than 70 years, and is the only seed company working to develop made-in-Canada corn varieties, officially opened its new corn research centre just east of Lethbridge at a Grand Opening event attended by about 150 farmers, guests and company representatives.
The Lethbridge site, which will focus on corn R & D and eventually soybeans is one of four Pioneer research and development centres across Western Canada. It is part of a $35 million investment over the past five years in new variety development. A long-standing facility in Carmen, Manitoba also focuses on corn and soybeans. A canola research centre opened near Edmonton a few years ago, and there is also a research centre near Saskatoon.
The Lethbridge corn breeding and development centre will be lead by Travis Coleman a research scientist, along with five other field and administrative employees.
CORN HAS POTENTIAL
“Corn is the crop with the largest growth potential for DuPont Pioneer, “ says Bryce Eger, business director and president of DuPont Pioneer Canada. “…and we hope to develop Western Canada as the next major corn market in the world.”
While there are well established corn growing regions in southern Manitoba and southern Alberta, DuPont Pioneer’s objective is to continue to develop earlier maturing, lower heat unit varieties of grain and silage corn that will expand the boundaries of crop into areas of the Prairies where it hasn’t been grown before. Their corn seed business has already double in the past five years.
The company, this year, for example is launching six new Liberty Link hybrid varieties designed for a variety of growing regions. Two of the varieties are rated at 2,500 and 2,600 heat units, two are in the 2275 to 2225 heat unit range, and two are in the 2000 to 2050 heat unit range.
“We feel with ongoing research and development we can develop new varieties with much lower heat unit requirements,” says Steven King, who is responsible for the DuPont Pioneers corn development program in Canada and the northern U.S.
“The question is not only how low can we go with lower heat unit varieties, but how fast can we get there,” says King. “And it is facilities like this one in Lethbridge where we will develop varieties suited to Alberta conditions, that will help us get there much faster.” King says not only is DuPont Pioneer the only corn breeding company in Canada, it is committed to developing varieties in the region where they will be grown.
With new “ultra early” maturity hybrids, DuPont Pioneer hopes to expand the boundaries of economical corn production. “Farmers grow what makes the most money and for a number of years canola has been the leader,” says King. “But you can’t grow canola on the same acres every year. We hope as these new corn varieties come along that farmers will find another profitable crop to include in their rotation.”
DuPont Pioneer has a team of specialists available to work with “new” producers to learn the corn production system. And to further encourage corn acres the company will have row planting equipment available that farmers can use to conduct their own field trails.
“Corn is a crop that requires specialized equipment such as row planters and row headers for the combine,” says King. “By making planters available we hope farmers will be encouraged to try their own field scale demonstration plots. And our specialists are available to provide agronomic information — such as nitrogen requirements and proper weed control — so farmers can learn the proper production practices.”
Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by email at [email protected]