Crop Tech

December 11, 2009 01:05 PM

Stacked and Ready

Scott Schmidt has 30 bags of SmartStax corn booked for 2010, and he can hardly wait to see how it will perform.

"It comes at a price premium, so I'll be putting the pencil to it,” says Schmidt, who farms near Grinnell, Iowa. "I'll be putting it to the test on corn-on-corn ground, where insect and disease pressure is typically higher.”

SmartStax is the latest in trait technology, combining multiple modes of action against above- and belowground pests. That means multiple Bt proteins are expressed throughout the entire plant, providing whole-plant protection. As an insect ingests the multiple modes of action, the proteins attack two areas of its midgut. This reduces concerns about insect resistance and allows for reduced refuge requirements.

Schmidt says he's impressed by in-field trials that show ear-feeding pests, such as corn earworm, to be more reliably controlled. Reduction in insect feeding is a start toward reducing ear rots and molds, he notes. "I'm also excited about the 5% refuge
associated with use of this technology,” he adds. Some Southern cotton states have higher refuge percentage requirements.

Monsanto Company's DeKalb-brand Genuity SmartStax will debut next year in eight hybrids in the 103-day to 113-day maturity ranges. Codeveloper Dow AgroSciences is releasing 14 new elite Mycogen SmartStax hybrids, including 12 grain corn hybrids and two silage-specific corn hybrids made available in maturity zones 2 through 8.

"Our SmartStax seed production is on schedule, and we are looking forward to offering hybrids across a wide range of maturities for planting next season,” says Brent Stauffacher, Mycogen Seeds' SmartStax product manager.

"Our agronomy team is already working with growers to maximize the benefit of reduced refuge, with a number of new tools available to help growers learn how to make the most of the new Mycogen SmartStax hybrids,” Stauffacher adds.

Some local and regional seed companies also have technology agreements that allow development of SmartStax hybrids.

Monsanto recently announced that its seed production exceeded expectations and that it will launch Genuity SmartStax on more than 4 million acres. Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences are planning to submit a regulatory package for a refuge-in-a-bag concept for SmartStax by the end of the year.


What a Stinker!

Another late-season soybean pest is knocking. Now, it's the red-banded stink bug. Farmers in Louisiana and Mississippi have reported increasing problems with this bug in the past few years. Now, the red-banded stink bug has made itself a nuisance as far north as southeastern Missouri.

Kelly Tindall, an entomologist at the University of Missouri's Delta Research Center in Portageville, found evidence of the insect in mid-October. She's concerned about 2010 because this species has shown an ability to quickly become a dominant pest in other Southern states.

Tindall says the red-banded stink bug is easily confused with the red-shouldered stink bug because of similar markings and size. "The key characteristic of the red-banded stink bug is when you flip it over, there will be a spine at the third pair of legs that points up to the head,” she says.

Extremely good fliers, the pests are more of a problem in late-planted beans. Like all stink bugs, they have sucking mouthparts to penetrate soybean pods and remove the contents of developing seed.

Tindall says research in Louisiana found red-banded stink bugs caged on soybean pods for 72 hours damaged up to 41% of the seeds and reduced seed weight by a third.

"Another troubling thing is they are harder to kill,” she says. In a plot comparison, the bug reduced yields by 43% in untreated plots, while treated plots had to be treated four times.


Get a Grip on Cyst With Fall Sampling

Fall soil sampling is the first step to a soybean cyst nematode (SCN) management program and the best way to prevent potential losses from the pest the following season, says Greg Tylka, an Iowa University Extension plant pathologist.

Results will indicate if fields are infested with SCN or if SCN population densities are being kept in check in infested fields that have had SCN-resistant varieties grown in the past. "You can continue to sample for SCN into the winter months as long as the ground is relatively dry and not frozen. We do suggest avoiding muddy conditions,” Tylka says.

Need to sample for corn nematodes? Fall and winter is not a good time to collect soil samples to check for these pests. Corn nematode populations typically decrease in the latter part of the growing season. And it is not possible to calculate what the numbers were in the earlier part of the growing season. Therefore, low corn nematode numbers obtained from fall soil samples are not very informative, Tylka says.

If population densities of corn nematodes are high in soil samples collected in the fall, it is safe to assume that the numbers were high earlier in the season, as well.

The exception are needle and sting nematodes. These species live only in soils that are at least 70% sand, and they migrate down into the soil profile during the heat of summer. So they are best detected in spring or fall soil samples.


Guidelines for Collecting Soil Samples to Test for SCN

  • Samples should be collected using a soil probe.
  • Soil cores should be collected to a total depth of 6" to 8".
  • Collect soil cores from 15 to 20 places in a zigzag pattern within a sampling area.
  • Collect a separate set of soil cores for each 20 acres or so.
  • Combine and mix soil cores, and fill each sample bag with one cup or more of soil.
  • Label the outside of each sample bag with a permanent marker.
  • One sample can be used to test for SCN and for nutrient analysis.


Sorghum Solutions

Sorghum grower Earl Roemer is happy his crop is finally getting a little respect. The Healy, Kan., producer and chair of the United Sorghum Checkoff Program (USCP) Producers Research Committee has long wished for the weed control options afforded other crops.

However, little has been done to produce sorghum varieties that are resistant to common herbicides. That's why USCP is funding research to find new over-the-top grass control solutions to give sorghum growers better management opportunities and flexibility in crop rotations.

Kansas State University (KSU) agronomist Kassim Al-Khatib notes that sorghum is primarily grown in dry regions and therefore, preplant herbicides can perform poorly or fail without adequate precipitation.

There are herbicides that can be applied after the crop is established to control weeds, but these products can potentially harm the crop.

"There is a considerable need for over-the-top grass control in sorghum,” Al-Khatib says.

KSU has identified traits resistant to herbicides, such as acetolactate synthase (ALS) and acetyl-coenzyme A carboxylase (ACCase), in some sorghum varieties. "This new technology will allow producers outstanding weed control and flexibility in crop rotations,” Al-Khatib says.

Weed control herbicides make the rotation to sorghum difficult because sorghum has little resistance to these products. Al-Khatib says growers could see this new technology available by 2012.

"ALS- and ACCase-resistant sorghum hybrids will provide over-the-top protection that was not available before. This is one example of how checkoff dollars are used to fund research that meets an important need for producers,” Roemer says.

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