Photo - corn leaf rolling from drought stress - midseason

Drought Management & Solutions

Strategies for drought management throughout the growing season from Pioneer experts.

Every year corn producers somewhere in the U.S. struggle with drought conditions. The extent of corn yield loss is determined by multiple factors, but the severity and length of drought are most critical.

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.

Pioneer experts have gathered some key data to help you stay on top of your agricultural water management this season and next.

Photo - People reviewing plants in cornfield - midseason - one person holding tablet.

Drought Effects on Germination & Emergence

Dry soils at planting will often lead to uneven emergence. Here's three things to keep in mind when planting into dry soil.

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. 

Early-season Drought Effects on Corn

Managing In-season Drought

Experiencing prolonged drought in-season? Here’s what to watch for and keep in mind before and after harvest.


“Plants keep from wilting by restricting the size, by regulating, the size of the openings. Just like a garden hose, how pressure builds up when you close off the opening.”

- Matt Montgomery, Pioneer Field Agronomist


Rolling Leaves & Drought Stress

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“If we can alleviate corn drought stress around the blister stage, that's when we being to see yield shaved off the top. Planting a package of products spreads our risk.”

- Matt Montgomery, Pioneer Field Agronomist


Strategies to Deal with Drought Stress

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Photo - soybean field - next to corn

Drought Impacts on Overall Plant Health

Disease and nutrient deficiency might be secondary concerns.

Watch for These

Photo - cornfield midseason - machine in distance

Preserve Yield by Harvesting Smart

Maximize the yield of drought-stressed corn.

Get Harvest Tips

Field planting operation

Cut Fertilizer Next Year

If your crop didn’t use this year, consider a cutting back on the next crop.

Learn More

How Drought Can Affect Your Corn Crop



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.

AQUAmax logo

Pioneer® brand Optimum® AQUAmax® products were grown in 13, 623 on-farm comparisons across the United States against competitor brand products (+/- 4 CRM) in 2018. Water-limited yield data includes 240 competitive comparisons with a win ratio of 63 percent, and favorable environment includes 13,383 competitive comparisons with a win ratio of 61 percent. Water-limited environments are those in which the water supply/demand ratio during flowering or grain fill was less than 0.66 on a 0-1 scale (1=adequate moisture) using the Pioneer proprietary EnClass® system and in which the yield average of competitor brand hybrids at the location was less than 150 bu/acre. Favorable growing conditions are locations where yield levels were at or above 150 bu/acre on average, regardless of water supply/demand ratio. Precipitation levels are interpolated values based on local weather stations. Product performance in water-limited environments is variable and depends on many factors such as the severity and timing of moisture deficiency, heat stress, soil type, management practices and environmental stress as well as disease and pest pressures. All hybrids may exhibit reduced yield under water and heat stress. Individual results may vary.