It took a while for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue its plan for phasing out Monsanto's single mode of action Bollgard cotton varieties. When it arrived, it threw growers a curveball.
Removing the single-gene varieties from the market forces growers to plant transgenic varieties with two Bacillus thuringiensis genes that target worms. That reduces chances of insect resistance.
Sounds good. But taking the single-gene varieties off the market means removing high-yielding DPL 555, the most popular variety in the Southeast since its introduction 6 years ago. In 2009, even though dual-gene Bollgard varieties were available, DPL 555 was still planted on 58% of the Southeast's acres and 16% of the total acreage nation-wide. DPL 555 represents about 90% of all Monsanto's 2009 single-gene Bollgard sales.
In order to plant DPL 555 or any single-gene Bollgard variety in 2010, growers must place orders for it by Sept. 30, 2009. Only Monsanto's Deltapine unit will sell single gene Bollgard varieties for 2010 planting.
The seed will be shipped by the end of February and must be planted by July 1. Contrary to earlier speculation, Monsanto will not have to give EPA names of growers planting it. Any seed not planted must be returned to the company for disposal.
Single-gene Bollgard varieties cannot be planted next year in Arizona, New Mexico, California, Kansas, Oklahoma, or the uppermost ten counties in the Texas Panhandle. That should cause few problems. Most DPL 555 has been planted in the Southeast, though some Arizona farmers have grown it, as well. The Arizonans are not allowed to grow it because of potential risks to the pink bollworm eradication program in that state.
Monsanto will have available 33% of the DPL 555 seed it sold in 2009. That's an increase from the 24% the company earlier said it would sell.
"All sales of Bollgard are final. After September 30, we can't sell any more Bollgard. Bags not planted must be returned. EPA does not want Bollgard planted in 2011. On July 1, we have to recover all product out there that's not planted,” says Dave Rhylander, Monsanto's Deltapine marketing lead.
Right now, farmers thinking about planting DPL 555 one last time have to act fast. "They have to make that decision, determine how many bags they need, what seed treatments they want on it, and purchase it from the dealer before September 30. There is a lot of work to be done in a short period of time,” Rhylander says.
Rhylander says the company will be in close contact with the Arizona growers to help them find substitute varieties.
The company promises to deliver new higher-yielding dual mode of action Bollgard II varieties that will make growers forget about DPL 555. Dave Albers, Monsanto's cotton germplasm development lead, says two good ones were introduced in 2009 and several more will follow in 2010.
"Breeder data shows us these are a step beyond 555 in yield, and we're looking at a number of products across a range of maturities,” Albers says.