Tech & Research

Agronomics Pushes Yield Goals at NK Seeds

Corn hybrids and soybean varieties are judged first on yield, then on the agronomic factors that drive consistent performance.

How does Syngenta decide which NK® corn hybrids and soybean varieties to move forward?

Joe Bollman, NK corn product manager, Syngenta Seeds: NK Seeds has set criteria for yield and key agronomic attributes such as stalk/root strength, test weight and disease tolerance that all products must meet to go on to the next testing stage or be commercialized. To be sure our products meet these standards, we test the hybrids across a wide geography with a variety of management practices. The products we commercialize must perform well across several years of testing to ensure we have consistent performance for farmers that purchase NK corn.

Eric Miller, NK soybean product manager, Syngenta Seeds
Eric Miller, NK soybean product manager, Syngenta Seeds

Eric Miller, NK soybean product manager, Syngenta Seeds: Product performance and demand ultimately determine the improvements and advancements in our commercial lineup. Herbicide trait dynamics brought a new dimension to the process, and being able to provide high-performing products on multiple herbicide trait platforms puts NK Seeds in a unique position. Regardless of herbicide trait, NK Seeds uses a stringent set of metrics and criteria to determine which products are advanced and become available to farmers. After more than 50 years of breeding soybeans, NK Seeds has the track record and experience to navigate a changing market and continue to bring industry-leading soybean solutions to our farmers and retailers.

How does farmer and/or retailer feedback play into the decision to keep a variety or hybrid?

Bollman: Farmer and retailer feedback is essential for us through all stages of testing hybrids. We use the feedback received from farmers and retailers when developing the performance standards that all hybrids must meet for advancement to the next stage or to be made available for sale. They also help steer where and how we should be testing hybrids, based on changes in management practices or shifting pest challenges.

Miller: Farmer and retailer feedback plays a critical role in all our decisions. We rely on farmers to provide feedback related to current product performance and future needs that help shape our pipeline. Retailers get to touch and feel products on many farms and in different environments, which helps confirm product performance and forecast near-term needs to serve farmers in their area.


We use the feedback received from farmers and retailers when developing the performance standards that all hybrids must meet for advancement to the next stage or to be made available for sale.

Joe Bollman NK Corn Product Manager at Syngenta Seeds

What technologies are used at Syngenta trait introgression facilities to speed up the process of choosing varieties/hybrids?

Miller: Our proprietary process uses many techniques to bring in-demand products to market faster than the competition can. Marker-assisted inbred conversion, trait-specific molecular markers and various controlled environments enable confident decisions in an ideal growing environment to speed the development and advancement of agronomic traits in multiple herbicide platforms. Speed to market with high-performing products is a hallmark of our trait introgression facilities. You can see the fruits of our labor in the new 2022 Field Forged Series™ of NK soybeans.

Which aspects of a variety or hybrid are considered first? Which are the most challenging to work with?

Joe Bollman, NK corn product manager, Syngenta Seeds
Joe Bollman, NK corn product manager, Syngenta Seeds

Bollman: Yield will always be the first attribute we review when selecting hybrids. It’s also the most difficult attribute to select for because yield expectations get raised every year. Early-stage testing is heavily focused on yield due to the sheer number of products being tested. Once we narrow the hybrids being tested to the highest-yielding, we then shift our focus to agronomics for consistent performance. We have an extremely diverse pool of germplasm to work with, so bringing products to market with certain agronomic attributes may be easier for us than for some of our competitors.

Miller: Yield pays the bills and is the first consideration, but pushing yield barriers isn’t possible without well-rounded, strong agronomics. Agronomic characteristics such as resistance to soybean white mold, Sudden Death Syndrome, Phytophthora root rot, iron deficiency chlorosis and frogeye leaf spot are always important considerations. The challenge is bringing them together in a versatile, high-performance product that does well in all environments.

How does the Cropwise™ Seed Selector help in evaluating product performance?

Bollman: The great thing about the product analyzer tool within Cropwise is that it’s simple to use, but there is a ton of information that’s accessed. Retailers can use the product analyzer to look at hybrid performance data based on geography, soil attributes, management or environmental factors to help narrow down the products that will work best in their area. The data in the product analyzer also powers the field manager feature, which selects specific products for an individual field based on the field’s attributes and the historical weather data for that field.

Miller: The product analyzer tool within Cropwise allows retailers and their customers to view thousands of trial results from various environments over multiple years. Access to competitive data and comparisons with NK varieties provide an unmatched level of transparency. We have confidence in our commercial offerings and pipeline. There is no better place to see firsthand why NK soybeans have such a fantastic reputation with farmers and retailers.