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New Farming Tech On The Way

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) Researchers in Iowa are the proud new owners of a patent for a new type of corn seed. The new seed has a gene that helps the plant more efficiently use nitrogen that it takes from the ground. Some farmers say it could drastically change corning farming in the next few years.

Of all the things that farmers do to help their crops grow, maintaining nitrogen levels might be one of the most important.

"In a corn crop, the corn pulls the nitrogen up and just adds kernels to the ear, kernel depth and just increases the yields across the board, said Johnson County Farmer Steve Swenka.

But Jason Russell says using nitrogen fertilizer cuts into his bottom line.

"Our nitrogen costs could be up to 50 cents per bushel, said Russell.

If corn sells at about $5 per bushel, 10-percent of the cost is nitrogen fertilizer, said Russell.

Thats where Iowa Corn comes in. Its an organization that pays for advertising and research for corn growers. By taking a cent from every bushel sold through whats called a Check-off Program, it was able to fund research that studied how to increase corn yields.

They targeted how nitrogen moves through the plant and made it more efficient.

"This is a pathway that already exists, we're just trying to turn up the dial a little bit, said Iowa Corn Technology Commercialization Manager Dr. David Ertl.

"This gene will allow us to apply less nitrogen and use less energy to grow a bushel of corn, said Jones County Farmer Jason Russell.

That discovery earned Iowa Corn a patent on this brand new nitrogen gene technology.

Dr. Ertl says itll still be at least six years before the seed gets to market, but farmers are encouraged that someone besides a seed company, who looks out for its own bottom line first, is going the extra mile to create new technology.

"If we just limited it to one company, even though economically that might be more desirable from a licensing point of view, our goal here at Iowa Corn is to help the farmers, said Dr. Ertl.

"When the commodity is kind of taking the leading role on this, you really feel gratified that your check-off dollars are working for you, said Swenka.

The new gene with either boost yields or cut costs, but it helps farmers either way.

Researchers say they still have to study how the gene will affect protein content in the kernels, but they dont expect this corn to be different than other types of corn, except that it will grow better.
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