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Manage Risk with a Trait Rotation Strategy

July 28, 2012
By: Ben Potter, Social Media and Innovation Editor google + 

This multiyear approach can help you prevent resistance

Familiarity might breed contempt, but diversity delights. Today, corn producers can take delight in the fact that they have access to 13 separate events (traits) that are stacked in various combinations in corn hybrids.

But because most individual events appear in multiple-trait stacks, farmers could be planting hybrids with the same event year after year and not even realize it. Here’s one example. You go with a Monsanto Genuity SmartStax hybrid the first year, a Dow AgroSciences SmartStax hybrid the second year, and then a Monsanto Genuity VT Triple PRO hybrid the third year. In this scenario, you used the Mon88017 event three consecutive times.

Christian Krupke, Purdue University associate professor and Extension entomologist, says the newer multistack hybrids might help reduce a farmer’s need to rotate traits. However, he says, there are pockets of acres where it would be wise to adopt a rotation strategy.

"Certainly in fields where resistance has popped up, or in continuous corn with a continuous use of the same Bt action, trait rotation would be a good idea," he says.

Trust your gut. Krupke’s bottom-line advice is the same, no matter what an individual farmer’s production practices are in his fields.

"The No. 1 thing is vigilance," he says. "Be aware that resistance to Bt corn could happen in your area, especially if you have some of the key risk factors we have seen in problem fields throughout the Midwest: a history of continuous corn using the same Bt toxin. If you think there are performance problems, follow up on it. Don’t dismiss it—trust your instincts."

There are many trait choices in today’s marketplace—more than ever before, says Luke Samuel, Monsanto corn insect traits product manager. But the choice is becoming easier

because Monsanto and other major hybrid providers are sorting their products into distinct trait "platforms," he adds.

Using the Genuity lineup as an example, Samuel says a farmer faced with the greatest insect and weed pressure could look into hybrids containing the Genuity SmartStax trait platform, with three aboveground and two belowground modes of action for insect feeding, plus two herbicide tolerance traits. Fields with lesser insect pressure may fare better with a

Genuity VT Triple PRO (two above, two below, one herbicide) or Genuity VT Double PRO (two above, one herbicide) hybrid instead.

"Based on what type of insect pressure you have, the trait package can be a pretty big selection factor," Samuel says. "The overall decision of which hybrids fit best in your fields adds to the complexity, but farmers have great choices. It’s a good situation when they have the choice to pick top hybrids with different insect and weed protection packages."

Farmers have to make good decisions every day to be successful, Samuel says. By fine-tuning trait selections and rotations, they have another opportunity to boost their returns.

Follow the rules. Herbicide traits are a bit trickier to manage because farmers not only have to choose the traits themselves, but also how to manage the corresponding herbicide(s). Farmers should "always read and follow label instructions," as all of the crop chemical companies urge. One big example: When a corn hybrid or soybean variety contains both LibertyLink and Roundup traits, it may be tempting to simply tank-mix Liberty and Roundup herbicides. However, a much more effective solution is to make an initial application of Liberty herbicide, followed by a later application of Roundup.

As additional herbicide traits come to market, premix herbicide solutions make the decision-making process a bit easier. Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist weed control system, pending regulatory approval, will give farmers access to Enlist Duo, a premix of 2,4-D choline and glyphosate, as early as 2013. Following close behind is a collaboration between BASF and Monsanto on dicamba-resistant soybeans and proprietary new dicamba herbicide formulations, which could debut in farmers’ fields as early as 2014.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Seed Guide 2012

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