A breakthrough has been made in Chile. Simon Ruiz, a biologist at the University of Talca, has developed a genetically modified variety of corn which can withstand 52 days without rain.
Kernel counts were far better in the newly developed corn and plants reached 80% of their potential yield, while plants without the resistance gene only reached 20% of their yield potential.
The genetically modified corn was developed with tomatoes that grow in the Atacama Desert and produce fruit throughout the year.
According to reports, both the plants with the resistant gene and the non-resistant gene grew. However, the production of kernels was significantly reduced in the non-resistant gene.
Use arid land
The breakthrough could mean that corn could be grown in land which is currently not in use in Chile. According to reports, Ruiz – who is a molecular biologist – originally set out to find ways of using the 2 million hectares of arid and semi-arid land in Chile.
Data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in 2017 and 2018 did not show corn imports from Chile, but there were imports from Brazil and Argentina.
In 2018, large amounts of maize were imported into the country due to its competitive price during the drought of 2018.
The average price of maize imported in 2018 was €168.00/t (using raw data from the CSO). The price was just under this in 2017 at €167.10/t.
These figures are the landed cost of the products and do not include transport to the mill, merchant or farm.
Effect on Irish grain price
High corn supplies are something that Irish farms are becoming acutely aware of as barley and wheat prices can be directly affected by the same. High supplies of corn around the world can result in low grain prices here in Ireland in order to remain competitive.
To put things into perspective, Ireland planted just 245,000ac of cereals in 2019 according to the CSO.