Pioneer Hi-Bred International is celebrating its 75th anniversary today. The company which developed hybrid seed corn is now the world’s largest seed company, with 700 products on the market. Pioneer public relations manager Jerry Harrington says the company dramatically revolutionized the way farmers thought about growing corn. He says the process allowed innovative farmers the seed and they were able to see the difference in the corn that was grown. Before hybrid corn, farmers got a couple dozen bushels of corn to the acre, today they get and average of 140 bushels per acre, and in Iowa and Illinois that can hit 200 bushels per acre.Pioneer was founded by Henry A. Wallace, who later went on to become U-S Ag Secretary, then F-D-R’s Vice President. Harrington calls Wallace the “messiah” of hybrid corn. Pioneer C-E-O Rick McConnell says the company’s future is in specialty seeds, such as corn grown for specific uses, just the way different classes of wheat are grown.McConnell says the hybrid seed revolution has been followed by the technology revolution.McConnell says biotechnology and genetic engineering will help develop plants that produce novel raw ingredients that will hopefully be healthier, more nutritious, and resistant to pests. Pioneer employs four thousand people worldwide, with sales in 70 countries. About two thousand work at the central Iowa headquarters in Johnston. Many of them will be at Living History Farms today for a discussion of the company’s past and its future. Pioneer, which merged with DuPont in 1999, sells alfalfa, canola, corn, sorghum, soybean, sunflower and wheat seeds.
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