Sunday, May 13, 2012

This Makes An IMPACT

Last Thursday Brian and Michelle, two members of Pioneer's IMPACT team arrived to plant an IMPACT soybean plot behind our warehouse.
What the heck is an IMPACT plot?
Farmers are familiar with seed companies doing research plots managed by plant breeders and their staff.  We are fortunate in this area to have the type of soils plant breeders look for.  Pride, Syngenta and Pioneer breeders all have research locations in the neighbourhood where they evaluate thousands of new corn and soybean genetic products.  After the breeders are done, companies pass on part of the evaluation torch to farmers and the Ontario Corn Committee or Ontario Oil and Protein Seed Committee in the case of soybeans.
Farmers who do their own strip trials are also familiar with companies giving them "experimental" hybrids to plant in their test plots.  When a hybrid advances to the experimental level, which Pioneer calls an R5 product, the company usually has already made the decision to sell the product next year.
Three years ago Pioneer changed the way they manage R5 products.  They bought trucks, planters and combines and set up IMPACT teams.  R5 products are no longer put in the farmers hands.

IMPACT plots are designed to evaluate a small number of corn hybrids or soybean varieties on a larger field scale than breeding plots.  IMPACT plots include the best commercial hybrids on the market, including 2-3 from our competitors, and a select few R5 hybrids which Pioneer believes will be the next generation of commercial hybrids. 
IMPACT locations are carefully chosen for soil uniformity.  Hybrids are replicated at each location and check hybrids are used to evaluate location uniformity.  What makes this effort unique is the fact that IMPACT plots are planted on all soil types, from heavy flat clays to gentle loams to droughty sands.  Ideally, Pioneer prefers hybrids spend two years in the IMPACT program. This willl expose hybrids to stress environments that breeding departments typically stay away from. 

Brian and Michelle are one of three IMPACT teams that cover Ontario and Quebec. Each team looks after approximately 50 locations of corn and soybean plots. Brian and Michelle cover the south from Niagara to Windsor and Sarnia. We are on the north edge of their area of responsibility. Our corn IMPACT plot is at Bill McIlhargey's farm on 23 hwy.
After the planting work is done Brian and Michelle spend the summer walking and monitoring each location, taking detailed notes on plant characteristics and traits. In the fall they run the combine, gather the yield information and begin sifting through the piles of data at their fingertips.  Agronomists and breeders bring their views to the table and debate the results.  It costs a lot of money to run the program, but this information is priceless.  It separates the real stars from the maybes and the no chance, no way.
A hybrid can sneak through the breeding program looking like a star, but it's weaknesses will be exposed by Brian, Michelle and the whole IMPACT team.  Thanks guys.  You're the best.

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