A 50-year commitment to corn on the Plains was celebrated last week when Pioneer Hi-Bred marked a half-century of work at its research station just northeast of York.
The research facility has been an important tool for producing and evaluating hybrids that can adapt to western growing conditions. In recent times, the station has focused primarily on 108- to 113-corn, as well as varieties with drought-tolerance, mid-season brittle-snap resistance and nitrogen-use efficiency traits.
At the anniversary milestone, Pioneer CEO Dean Oestrich said Pioneer's goals remain much the same as when the facility opened in 1957: To develop the best and most productive varieties for its farmer customers.
But production practices have changed, Oestrich noted. "The difference today is that we have a much, much broader assortment of crop genetics research tools and techniques to help growers get more from each acre."
The Pioneer York Research Center manages more than 90,000 test and demonstration plots at York and at more than a dozen outlying locations. More than 130,000 self-pollinations are made each summer by the research staff. The York Center is one of 92 crop research facilities Pioneer and DuPont have across the world.
Stan Jensen, the first director of the York Research Center, said corn yields and hybrids and corn production in Nebraska are far different now than when he began the facility in 1957. Back then, there was little irrigation in the area, and that was mostly ditch and furrow irrigation.
Irrigated corn might make 90 bushels back then and dryland corn made from zero to 60 or 70 bushels per acre, he said. Now those corn yields have nearly doubled in both categories. That's a result of 50 years of progressively better corn breeding and improvements in corn production techniques.
When asked about future corn production improvements, Jensen said one of his professors told him many years before, "It's dangerous to underestimate the potential of corn."
Researchers and farmers keep raising better yields. And others keep finding new uses for corn.