, Farm Journal Seeds & Production Editor
The prospect of a smaller corn refuge pleases Pete Pistorius. The Blue Mound, Ill., corn grower has always found planting a separate non-Bt plots to be a pain, especially if spring planting gets pushed back a bit.
So he was thrilled when SmartStax came along with a reduced 5% refuge requirement (20% in most Southern States). "I like the idea of a larger percentage of each corn field protected through traits,” says Pistorius, who is also a seed dealer. "But I also know that refuge reduction is not refuge elimination. I still need to plant refuge that corresponds to each hybrid grown and I'm stressing that to all my customers.”
Chism Craig, Monsanto technology development manager for corn insect traits, agrees the refuge reduction that comes with the SmartStax trait package is welcome relief. However, he also recognizes that growers might find the 2010 planting season a bit confusing since they could be juggling a couple of different refuge requirements.
"We know you've heard this over and over, but please respect the refuge for the hybrid you're planting this spring,” says Craig. "Not only is it important with regard to insect resistance management, but as an industry we need to be able to show we are taking the steps necessary to safeguard this technology.
So far, SmartStax is the only platform with an approved reduced refuge for the 2010 planting season. First-generation insect traits that require the standard 20% refuge (50% in cotton states) are likely to continue to experience widespread planting for the next few years.
"We're going to have a mishmash of all kind of refuge situations this spring,” Craig says. To help growers plan, many seed companies have added refuge icons to their seed tags and product guides for the coming year. Craig urges growers to utilize an online refuge calculator
that have been developed to help growers purchase the right number of seed bags for both trait and refuge and to plan planting configurations.
SmartStax, a trait platform co-developed by Dow AgroSciences and Monsanto, qualifies for a reduced refuge because it protects against both above and below ground insects by way of multiple in-plant proteins.
By now, you've also probably heard about refuge-in-a-bag (RIB)—the system that integrates the refuge hybrid into the bag. Dow, Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta have all applied for permission to use this blended approach, but all await final regulatory approvals on the concept.
Pioneer Hi-Bred is closest to commercialization with Optimum AcreMax 1 insect protection. Bill Belzer, senior marketing manager for North America Corn at Pioneer, says the company is ready to deliver product as soon as final regulatory approval comes from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The product will satisfy the refuge requirement for corn rootworm by combining a high percentage of a Pioneer hybrid containing Herculex XTRA with a low percentage of a Pioneer hybrid with the Herculex I trait. However, a 20% European corn borer refuge will still be required.
Craig says Monsanto has been studying the refuge-in-the-bag concept for more than a decade. Listen in as Chism Craig discusses 2010 planting commitments, refuge configurations and the outlook for in-bag options: