Development, adoption, and management of drought-tolerant corn in the United States.

Published online
01 May 2019
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McFadden, J. & Smith, D. & Wechsler, S. & Wallander, S.

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Drought, a recurring source of crop yield losses and crop failure, often prompts Federal natural disaster and crop insurance payments to U.S. farmers. Few ways exist to substantially reduce yield losses due to drought, although a new tool has recently become available. Drought tolerance produced using conventional breeding methods was first commercially introduced in U.S. corn hybrids in 2011. Genetically engineered (GE) drought tolerance was introduced in hybrids in 2012 but did not become broadly available until 2013. However, the vast majority of drought-tolerant (DT) corn planted in 2016 had one or more GE traits (e.g., herbicide tolerance and/or insect resistance). By 2016, 22 percent of total U.S. planted corn acreage was drought tolerant. Adoption is more concentrated in drought-prone regions of the United States, despite the hybrids' limited abilities to protect against extreme-or-worse droughts. Significant DT corn acreage is also located in non-drought-prone regions and the broader Corn Belt. This report documents the development, adoption, and management of DT corn in the United States, emphasizing the roles of recent and frequent exposure to drought; moisture-conservation practices; GE seed traits and pricing; and irrigation.

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