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Pioneer Innovation Put into Production: Technology to Bring Step Change in Hybrid Seed Production

Hybrid seed is produced when one plant pollinates a second plant of a different genetic background, known as the seed parent. Seed harvested from the seed parent is the hybrid seed that is sold to customers.  To produce the purest and highest quality hybrid seed, it's critical to ensure the seed parent does not pollinate itself.

The most common method used today for hybrid seed production is detasseling, a labor and mechanically intensive process that requires multiple trips through a production field to physically remove the tassel of the seed parent to prevent self-pollination.  Current detasseling practices can also damage corn plants during the process, which can lead to potential yield loss.

Pioneer Hi-Bred has developed the Seed Production Technology (SPT) process to improve the efficiency of hybrid seed production, building on Pioneer's ability to respond to customer demands for reliable supplies of high quality hybrid seed. The innovative technology works by utilizing a naturally-occurring corn gene to produce seed parents that do not shed pollen. Because no pollen is shed, the risk of self-pollination is dramatically reduced, ultimately improving hybrid seed quality.

The SPT process brings multiple advantages to seed production, compared to other production systems used today, including:

  • Additional supply reliability through increasing yields by 15-20 percent in seed production fields by eliminating plant damage during the detasseling process
  • Reduced environmental footprint of hybrid seed production and likelihood for physical injury by decreasing the amount of fuel, equipment and labor needed in production fields
  • Improved seed purity and quality

Included in the SPT process is a transgenic maintainer line, the non-transgenic seed parent line, and the non-transgenic commercial hybrid seed. The maintainer line is used at the front end of the process to increase the volume of the seed parent, which is then used for hybrid seed production.  

Pioneer recently received deregulation from the USDA for this transgenic maintainer line, eliminating the need for Pioneer to grow the maintainer line under permit every year.  The seed parent and hybrid seeds produced with the process do not contain the transgenes used in the SPT process.

The SPT process is being deployed in Pioneer's seed production and will be used in concert with other methods of seed production, including detasseling and cytomplasmic male sterility (CMS).

Learn more about the SPT process.