Photo - scenic - cornfield - early season - trees near border

Drought Management & Solutions

Early-season and mid-season strategies for drought management from Pioneer experts.

While drought stress in North America is more common in the latter-half of a growing season, early-season and mid-season drought stress can still impact development and yield.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is an excellent resource to monitor your local conditions and surrounding region. If your area is experiencing D1-D4 conditions, Pioneer experts have gathered some key data to help you stay on top of your agricultural water management this season and next.

The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC.



Corn Germination & Emergence Under Drought

Dry soils at planting will often lead to delayed germination and uneven emergence. Avoid these field conditions that can worsen the problem.

Tips to Manage Early-season Drought

To help reduce the risk of drought affecting your fields, keep these five tips in mind: 

1. Residue Helps

Residue is important to reduce water loss through evaporation and in protection soil from wind. Reduce spring tillage if possible to preserve soil moisture. 

2. Avoid Shallow Planting

Soil near the surface dries more quickly which can exacerbate problems, target a depth of 2” to 3” in most situations.

3. Watch Fertility – Especially Potassium

Less soil moisture can mean less nutrient uptake. Potassium is most likely to be deficient under drought stress and can exacerbate drought stress. 

4. Give Water the Best Chance to Reach Seeds

Ensure good seed-to-soil contact and keep residue out of the furrow as much as possible so water can move to seedlings.

5. Manage Soil Structure

Improving soil structure and minimizing compaction will improve water-holding capacity. 


Learn More About Water & Corn Fertility

Photo - testing soil moisture

Water, Soil Nutrients, and Corn

Discover how hybrid selection impacts corn water use and the movement of soil nutrients.

Read Article
Photo - closeup - corn seedling emerging under extreme soil compaction and crusting.

Corn Water Use

Covers soil moisture loss, corn rooting depth and water uptake and the impact of water stress.

Read Article
Photo - early season - cornfield with high amounts of residue between rows

Water/Nutrient Uptake In-season

Learn more about how water affects nutrient availability and uptake.

Read Article


Hybrid Selection for Drought Management

Hybrid selection is one of the top factors for managing drought stress throughout the season. Pioneer researchers and plant breeders have identified key characteristics necessary for hybrids to withstand challenging conditions and responsive to favorable ones.

Pioneer® brand Optimum® AQUAmax® hybrids are industry leaders, designed to perform rain or shine and offer improved performance in water-limited conditions.


Pioneer® brand Optimum® AQUAmax® Hybrid Research Tour

What testing qualifies an AQUAmax hybrid?

What makes a hybrid AQUAmax?

Can farmers look at the research plots themselves?


How Optimum® AQUAmax® Hybrids Thrive

Key Traits

Optimum® AQUAmax® hybrids are highly resilient in challenging conditions and responsive to favorable ones. These hybrids are bred to include key native traits that improve your crop’s root system and silk emergence, among other agronomic characteristics, to manage drought stress.

Tested for Superior Performance

Optimum® AQUAmax® corn hybrids had an average yield advantage of 6.2 bu/A with a win ratio of 63 percent in on-farm competitive comparisons in water-limited environments in 2018. In favorable conditions, they offered an average yield advantage of 4.7 bu/A with a win ratio of 61 percent in on-farm competitive comparisons in 2018.

Strong Agronomics & Technology

Optimum® AQUAmax® hybrids include key native traits designed to help withstand drought stress and protect against yield loss. Our hybrids are locally adapted and equipped with strong agronomics. In addition, they are available in a wide range of maturities and technology packages for insect protection and herbicide tolerance.