Pioneer announces new corn research center in Urbana

PLAIN CITY, Ohio — If you want to know what a product can do for your farm, there’s no better way to find out than to test it locally.

That’s part of the philosophy behind a 20,000 square-foot research facility about to be built by Pioneer in Urbana, Ohio.

Company officials announced the new facility during a media open house held March 8 at a temporary research facility in Plain City.

Over the course of the year, Pioneer hopes to build and relocate its corn research operations, as well as a staff of about a dozen.

“We realized we needed to be testing in the environment where we intended to sell our products,” said Randy Minton, business director for the northeast region.

The company hopes the new permanent facility will help accomplish the Pioneer mission — of placing “the right product on the right acre.”

It was a phrase repeated many times throughout the event, as Pioneer experts reviewed the company’s newest products and attention to greater yield. Lunch was cooked with Plenish high oleic soybean oil — a newly designed soy oil grown from high oleic soybeans.

Healthy oil

The oil is one of the lowest fat cooking oils available, and is said to retain flavor better than comparable oils. It contains no trans fat, and 20 percent less saturated fat than commodity soybean oil.

Last year was one of the first years the beans were grown in Ohio — under contract with Pioneer — and growers reported yields to be comparable with other beans.

Pioneer Area Manager Kevin Smith said the new oil is expected to become popular in fried foods, bulk packaged foods, and in some industrial uses.

“It opens up a whole new world for us,” Smith said.

The new bean is hailed for providing biotech benefits for farmers, as well as consumers.

“It’s biototech technology, but it’s bringing value to us (farmers), and to society and the world so that we can eat better,” said Marketing Manager John Schartman.

Corn growth

In corn specifically, the company added 154 new Pioneer brand hybrids and refuge products, featuring 36 new genetic families.

Joseph Stull, senior research associate, said company growth and higher yields are important not only for farmers, but for feeding a growing world population.

He cited a popular figure of 9 billion people by 2050 — a significant increase from today’s 7 billion people.

“At the end of the day, I think demands for agricultural output are clearly going up,” he said.

While yields improve every year, they can and will need to do much better.

“Modern corn hybrids probably have twice as much potential as we’re getting out of them,” he said.

Investing in research

Wendy Srnic, research manager, talked about the “pioneering” attitude of the company’s founders and how the vision has persisted to this day.

It takes an estimated seven to eight years to develop one commercial hybrid.

“We have what we call the ‘long look,’” she said. “We’re not looking at what’s best today, we look at what’s best (in the future). … Research is a logical place to make investments for long-term gain, and huge challenges like feeding the world.”

Construction of the permanent corn research facility is expected to begin as soon as weather permits, and could be complete by late fall or early winter.

About the Author

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties. More Stories by Chris Kick

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