Corn growers uncertain whether to plant new Agrisure Duracade corn hybrids this spring have a range of marketing options available to them and can move forward with their plans, according to Pat Steiner, head of Syngenta corn crop portfolio.
The company has established a 1-800 number for farmers to call and check for elevators in their area that will accept grain with the new genetically modified trait, which has not yet been approved for import by China.
Farmers can call the Syngenta-manned resource number, 1-800-319-1360, any time between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. EDT, Monday through Friday, to attain information on available markets.
"There is a range of options because 99.5% of the grain is going elsewhere," Steiner says, "Some elevators are taking the grain freely while others are asking that it be identified. On top of that, it can go into feed," he adds. "Meat can be imported by China as the protein is not regulated."
In January, the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA) had sent a joint letter to Syngenta asking the company to halt the commercialization of hybrids containing Agrisure Duracade, as well as its hybrids containing the Agrisure Viptera trait, MIR 162, until China grants regulatory authorization.
The associations said they "are gravely concerned about the serious economic harm to exporters, grain handlers and, ultimately, agricultural producers — as well as the United States’ reputation to meet its customers’ needs — that has resulted from Syngenta’s current approach to stewardship of Viptera."
Steiner says the primary reason for Syngenta’s decision to continue marketing hybrids containing the trait is because it has been in the marketplace for four years already.
"We were selling Viptera a year and a half before China became a major importer," he notes. "Now that China has become a significant importer and decided to reject barges containing Agrisure Viptera, which they hadn't done in the past, it's a real challenge because there's a lot out there already."
As for the Agrisure Duracade products, Syngenta opted to proceed with its 2014 launch plans since market options are available for the grain. The company is essentially sold out of the hybrids, which express a new Bt Cry protein, eCry3.1Ab, for corn rootworm control. This is the first time the new Cry protein will be used commercially.
"Farmers need tools for control of corn rootworm, and Duracade is certainly on the forefront and is coming at a desperately needed time as that pest is such a problem these days," Steiner says.
Results of the 2013 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll support Steiner’s perspective on the pest. Sixty-nine percent of 1,209 farmers responding to the survey indicated that they were aware that populations of Bt-resistant Western corn rootworm had been found in Iowa. In addition, 53% indicated concern that Bt-resistant corn rootworm would become a major problem in the state, according to J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., a sociologist with Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach.
Thirty-eight percent of farmers ISU surveyed said they had changed their approach to rootworm management during the past five years, and 77% of those who planned to plant corn in 2013 reported that they would use a rootworm-resistant variety, Arbuckle adds.
Arbuckle co-directs the annual poll with Paul Lasley, also an ISU Extension and Outreach sociologist.
Steiner says March 1 is the next checkpoint date for the Chinese to announce any progress on import approvals for Agrisure Duracade and Agrisure Viptera.
"If China breaks the logjam, that would be great news," Steiner says. "This has been tough on everyone."
He notes that Syngenta is in regular contact with both the NGFA and NAEGA, in hopes of developing a resolution satisfactory to all parties.
Steiner adds that the "Know Before You Grow" link on the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) website is a useful resource that farmers can use to stay up-to-date on Syngenta products as well as other industry-developed traits that are in the market pipeline.