Crop scientists across the country and around the world work every day to create the seeds that will help farmers realize the best yields possible while fighting off the stresses that come with each and every growing season. Some of that work is done near Lebanon, Indiana at Monsanto’s DEKALB Breeding Research Station. During a visit there last fall commercial breeder Magen Eller told HAT the facility serves two main functions.
“One of those is testing pre-commercial germplasm from all around the United States and the other is breeding pre-commercial germplasm for use in the DEKALB channel. So we’ll be developing inbreds here and also testing potential commercial products which are hybrid varieties that will sell here in Indiana and for the DEKALB brand really all across the United States.”
Eller explains having in-state locations is significant for Indiana farmers. DEKALB is able to evaluate germplasm for disease and other characteristics that are of specific importance to Hoosiers but not necessarily other parts of the U.S. For example, in Lebanon they do a lot of work addressing diplodia ear rot.
“That’s a disease that affects the eastern part of the United States, in particular Indiana and Illinois, more than it affects other growing regions. By testing our company wide germplasm here we can insure that we know how any particular DEKALB product is going to perform for diplodia, but it also gives us an opportunity to breed for resistance under an increased pressure environment.”
And like an assistant coach for a winning team, with much of their work behind the scenes, Eller says corn breeders take pride in good performing hybrids after a stressful growing season.
“Any year provides an opportunity to evaluate for the different stresses, and when you have a stress here and you see a commercial product that performs to or above expectations, it’s nice to be able to say we had a lot to do with that product going into a DEKALB bag and becoming a real seller for the brand.”
Eller says she is motivated by helping develop products that will benefit not only Hoosier farmers and her family farm in western Illinois, but a whole group of farmers who use their products. And she adds, plant breeding is a big piece to the world population growth puzzle.