The Refuge Maze

10:39AM Aug 16, 2010

Just the mention of the word "refuge" brings an eye roll of exasperation from Dean Werries. He and his father, John, used hybrids from the DeKalb brand Genuity SmartStax in their lineup for 2010 mostly because they wanted to use the latest technology. The chance to lower refuge acres to 5% was also a major selling point.

"We take refuge compliance seriously on our farm," says the Chapin, Ill., farmer. "It takes a lot of time and planning to make sure we get our refuge acres positioned on the right acres. We are definitely looking forward to the day the refuge is integrated in the bag."

In the past, all you had to know was that the minimum refuge size needed to be 20% of the total corn acreage (50% in most Southern states), placed appropriately. That remains true for corn hybrids with Bt traits for root- worm or corn borer only.

The 2010 introduction of SmartStax corn brought a structured but reduced refuge of 5% of total corn acreage (20% in most cotton areas, but check with your seed dealer for details).

Pioneer Hi-Bred’s Optimum AcreMax 1 product integrates a 10% corn rootworm refuge into the bag, but you still must plant a structured 20% corn borer refuge (50% in most Southern states).

Seed technology providers (Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto Company and Syngenta Seeds) are petitioning EPA for further approvals that would allow blending of the refuge into the bag, but approvals are not expected soon.

"Growers still need to implement proper refuge configurations, which allow for susceptible insects to feed and mate to help prevent the development of resistant populations and to ensure long-term trait viability," says Keith Porter, Mycogen Seeds agron-omy services leader. "The future question for growers may be, Does it need to be a separate, structured refuge?"

A sobering report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest in November found that one in four farmers is not adhering to insect resistance management (IRM) requirements.

Figures such as that worry Michael Smith, Pioneer senior product stewardship manager. "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."
Get help planning your refuge through an online calculator.

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