The varieties that are being developed in the EDDI (European Dry-Down Initiative) breeding program - which was developed especially for this purpose - can be harvested very early or with a very low moisture content (<20%). The low grain moisture significantly reduces the drying effort after harvest. As a result, this means lower drying costs, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, and less labor for farmers. Furthermore, the secure maturation of the varieties makes grain corn a profitable cultivation option for the first time, even in previously untypical regions. The first DryDown+ varieties will be registered for the next growing season in Germany, France and Poland.
In line with the Green Deal and the farm-to-fork strategy, the EU Commission has issued new decisions on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Among other things, extended crop rotations are intended to help reducing the use of crop protection products. Here grain corn will become a worthwhile cultivation alternative to stubble wheat. "The current decisions on the EU Commission's common agricultural policy are a call to show new ways in arable farming and offer farmers practicable solutions. Profitable summer crops make it easier for farmers to decide to expand their crop rotation," says Volker Utesch, Head of the Corn Business Unit at KWS. "With our DryDown+ grain corn varieties, we do just that: we enable successful grain corn cultivation in typical winter cereal regions and strengthen existing grain corn regions in a sustainable way with the specific variety traits."
Internal trials show that reducing crop moisture from 30 to 20 percent can reduce necessary drying costs by up to 50 percent. With KWS' DryDown+ varieties this reduction is already a reality in regions with a temperature total of at least 1,200 heat units during the vegetation phase. But KWS does not stop at this point. Drying costs for grain corn should no longer be the main cost driver in grain corn cultivation in the future. Grain moisture levels of with a maximum of 15% at harvest are the final goal.
However, the breeders' focus here is not exclusively on rapid maturing behavior and early flowering. "Our main goal is to accelerate dry-down, i.e. the drying behavior of the varieties," explains Christof Bolduan, who is responsible for the new breeding program at KWS. Additional breeding goals are a high and reliable grain yield, stability, healthy maturing behavior and a wide harvest window. Christof Bolduan: "We are investing seven figures a year in this breeding program and aim to achieve stable grain moisture levels of less than 20 percent in the medium term. Varieties from the breeding program for grain corn, with a superior dry-down, have great potential to expand crop rotations, especially in typical winter cereal growing regions.