Six of the varieties nominated by the Maize Breeding Department of the Agricultural Institute of the ELKH Centre for Agricultural Research (ATK MGI) have been certified by the state and included in the EU common list of varieties in spring 2021. The pilot scheme for the production of maize hybrids covers several countries and thus several areas with different climates. This allows researchers to select hybrids that are best adapted to local weather conditions. With the certification of new hybrids in all ripening ages, the selection of grain maize of the Martonvár institute has been significantly enriched. Thanks to their beneficial properties, the new varieties can be used for a variety of purposes and in many ways.

In our continental climate, extreme weather conditions are quite common. In spring, after sowing, temperatures are usually below the optimum for maize. Summer heat waves and dry spells are common – just when maize is in its most sensitive phenophases, flowering and kernel ripening. Therefore, important parts of the scheme set up by ATK researchers include experimental sites where rainfall is below the national average for many years, and irrigated areas where the yield potential of maize hybrids is being tested at yield levels of 15 tonnes per hectare or more. In addition, the researchers are evaluating the cold tolerance of the hybrids and the robustness of their initial development in specific climatic locations. Selection to improve adaptability is also helped by experiments carried out outside our borders.

As global climate change is expected to bring even hotter and drier summers, the experts have tested some hybrids – in preparation – by joining state trials in Romania, where the weather is already hotter and drier than in our country. The performance of the Hungarian hybrids was evaluated with intensive technology in Italy, and in cooler areas in Slovakia. The main goal of these pilot studies is to select the types best adapted to the varied local climate.

The properties of the Makora and Mv 221 super-early (FAO160-240) maturing hybrids developed under a Polish-Hungarian joint project were tested in Slovakian studies. Their maternal parents were produced in Martonvásár, while their paternal parents in Poland. Crossing genetically distant parents has resulted in hybrids that are very early maturing, cold tolerant, with rapid kernel ripening and high yields.

Among the subjects of the tests in Romania, Mv Mavica was certified by the state in the very early (FAO200-299) group, Mv Matinna in the early (FAO300-399) group and Mv 421 in the medium (FAO400-499) ripening-age group.

As a result of the successful tests, one more hybrid, tested in Hungary, the late ripening-age (FAO500-599) Mv Vincesil silage maize was granted state certification in Hungary. In producing it, researchers have paid special attention, in addition to productivity, to nutritional parameters . Mv Vincesil is ideal for silage maize, where the stalk below the ear is short and not easily digestible, while the more digestible stalk above the ear is longer and thicker than that of grain maize. In addition, it retains its silage maturity for longer and its water loss is slower than that of grain maize. Its grains are more floury and crunchier, so they are opened up better in the silo and then in the rumen of the animals. The researchers developed this ideotype by naturally inserting a special gene (LFY). Leafy maize develops more leaves above the ear, increasing assimilation performance (Figure).

Properties of ideal grain and silage maize

Some 90 pecent of the land sown to maize in our country is planted with grain maize and 10 per cent with silage maize. Accordingly, more research capacity at ATK-MGI is devoted to the production of grain hybrids than to the breeding of silage maize.

The grain hybrids are used in a wide variety of ways, depending on their nutritious content. Grain maize is primarily used as animal feed, but recently more and more maize has also been processed for bioethanol production, so, depending on the season, up to one-third of the crop can be used for biofuel production. Advanced bioethanol can also be used as a substitute for petrochemical products in many areas of industry. In addition to its main use as feed for ruminants, silage maize is also used for biogas production.

As a result of experiments carried out in several countries in recent years, researchers have succeeded in selecting maize varieties that are not only successfully adapted to the Hungarian climate, but also have a wide range of use cases in line with modern requirements.