Respect the Refuge

May 18, 2010 07:00 PM

Pam Smith, Farm Journal Seeds and Production Editor

Major seed corn trait providers say growers can expect the same amount of oversight with regard to insect refuges this year.
"The fact that some refuges have been reduced for 2010 doesn't alter a grower's obligation to follow the refuge requirements for that particular hybrid,” says Michael Smith, Pioneer Hi-Bred senior product stewardship manager.      
Smith serves as co-chair of the Agriculture Biotech Stewardship and Technology Committee (ABSTC), an industry group that includes all the major trait providers. This group works to develop and monitor the Insect Resistance Management (IRM) plan put in place when pest-tolerant biotech crops were introduced more than a decade ago.
Growers who balk at signing technology agreements need to understand these contracts are required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the documents are an important indication that the grower has been informed of the IRM protocols, Smith says.
"Each registrant has a slightly different approach to gathering these agreements and growers need to realize they are legally binding documents,” he adds. "However, the goal for everyone involved is to preserve this technology.”
Smith says the pressure is on to make sure IRM compliance remains high. Although farms are selected randomly for compliance audits, selection is heavily weighted to major Corn Belt states. He says purchasing patterns (percent Bt versus refuge hybrid) are also being scrutinized.
The industry is bringing new Bt corn product options to the market in 2010 that have a reduced refuge and, in doing so, trait providers will report IRM compliance results for those products separately to the EPA.  
"We're at a crossroads where a one-size fits all refuge no longer exists,” Smith says.  "Continued reductions in the refuge will depend on grower adherence to IRM requirements as resistance management benefits of new technologies rely on continued viability of current technologies.” 
Read more about refuge management.

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