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Advanced Pioneer Technology Delivers the Right Product for the Right Acre

Pioneer is a leader in genetic technologies.  As early as the 1920s, Pioneer's leaders recognized that a key to developing higher yielding corn hybrids was breeding corn plants with diverse backgrounds.  More background combinations led to the generation of information, which was carefully recorded, and allowed Pioneer breeders to make informed breeding decisions based on yield results.  This early work led to the establishment of what is now recognized as one of the most genetically diverse, and most productive private germplasm collections in the world.

Today, Pioneer scientists still understand that genetic information is essential to developing and advancing the best hybrids for our customers.  Pioneer no longer has to wait for harvest results to predict performance.  Researchers at Pioneer apply the most advanced genetic information technology to predict performance based on the genes inside the seed. 

Genetic technology combines advanced bioinformatics (computer science applied to molecular biology) with DNA sequencing, genetic predictions, and molecular markers to identify which seeds contain desirable characteristics.  Only the plants with the best genetics are tested in the field, saving time and money while accelerating speed to market, increasing the number of samples tested and improving performance.

A lot of information in a seed

"There's a lot of information in a seed," said Jon Lightner, director, Trait Characterization and Development.  "The key is to be able to capture that information and then use it to make better decisions faster." 

Scientists have estimated that corn contains somewhere in the range of 60,000-80,000 genes.  While some of those genes haven't been identified yet, we are well on the way to understanding many of them. 

Pioneer scientists use molecular markers - unique sections of DNA that are associated with particular traits.  Markers situated along the DNA give a view of the genetic makeup in that specific region of the genome.  Researchers use markers to screen for the presence of traits even before the plant is fully grown, or in the seed before it is planted.  The more markers available to scientists, the better they will be able to screen for traits before the plant is ever grown in the field. 

Head start through early adoption

"Pioneer was the first company to implement the use of molecular markers for production agriculture in the 1980s," said John Arbuckle, director, Global Marker Technology.  "During the past 30 years, we've ramped up our systems, expanding their use to global locations and across our key crops."

This means more data coming in from across the globe, and across crops.  For example, in 2000, Pioneer collected around 1 million data points.  In a little over a decade, the number of data points collected increased nearly 1000x, creating ever-increasing needs for better data management, improved decision making, and faster integration of technologies.

Continued advancement through open innovation

Pioneer integrates its technologies with those developed through collaborations with others.  In 2010, Pioneer had more than 1000 active technical agreements on six continents.

Idea sharing through collaboration is continuing in 2011, and in May, Pioneer announced a collaboration with Biotique Systems, Inc., to accelerate genetic discovery in agricultural crops globally.  Under the agreement, Biotique will provide knowledge and access to its proprietary "TITAN" solution for next-generation sequence management, marker analysis, and genotype to phenotype association as well as its "Make-Sense" intellectual property portfolio for agricultural applications. 

Another example of Pioneer working with others to accelerate product development is acollaboration with Douglas Scientific, a Minnesota-based company to improve the speed and increase the number of samples that can be tested using tape arrays.  Tape arrays use long flexible "tapes" to hold samples as they are moved through the analysis process.  Tests that, years ago were performed in milliliter volumes in tubes, are now performed by the thousands in tiny droplets on a tape. 

"Advancing science is always on the top of our minds," added Lightner. "We host and attend a number of scientific meetings and innovation discussions throughout the year.  In May, we're sponsors of the Ag Innovation Showcase and we will be discussing potential collaborations to further advance our research programs."

Better products for our customers

"It's all about making the right product for our customers," said Arbuckle.  "Locally developed and tested products require local knowledge, and more sophistication in the way we work."

Pioneer® brand'sY series soybeans, first offered in 2008, used advanced genetic technologies to maximize yield for growers.  And in 2011, Pioneer launched Optimum® AQUAmaxTM corn hybrids, developed and tested to deliver a yield advantage in water-limited environments. 

"It's a very exciting time in agriculture and at Pioneer," added Arbuckle.  "Genetic technologies, combined with our other research programs and agronomic advancements will enable us to make great strides in meeting the needs of a growing population."