As the 2007 corn harvest winds down, growers are looking ahead to the 2008 season and making plans for seed purchases and planting. The National Corn Growers Association reminds U.S. biotech corn growers that the development of an Insect Resistance Management plan is an essential and required part of their 2008 planning process. 

Planting a biotech corn refuge helps decrease the natural selection pressures that can lead to insect resistance. These refuge acres ensure that rare resistant insects that feed on insect-protected varieties of corn will mate with susceptible insects and slow the development of resistance. Leading scientists agree the resistance threat is real and planting a proper refuge will help ensure the longevity of the current products. Loss of the technology to resistance could cost U.S. farmers billions of dollars through yield reduction and increased pesticide use. 

“Since the introduction of biotech traits, the vast majority of corn growers have taken the appropriate measures and planted refuge acreage in order to protect the efficacy of this important technology,” says Martin Barbre, chairman of NCGA’s Biotechnology Working Group and a grower from Carmi, Ill.  “As the popularity and yield benefits from the use of these technologies increases, it is more important than ever for farmers to follow the refuge requirements.” 

To prevent or delay resistance development to biotech crops, Environmental Protection Agency registrations require at least a 20 percent refuge for current biotech corn borer and corn rootworm traits in northern states. In southern states, where both biotech cotton and corn are planted, EPA requires at least a 50 percent refuge for corn borers.

In addition to protecting current technology, adherence to refuge requirements is important for the commercialization of next generation biotech traits. Regulatory officials and trait providers are closely watching corn growers’ adoption and use of current traits. Regulators will review this track record as the determine refuge size, planting flexibility and other authorizations for future technology products. Also, future traits that build on today’s technology will fully succeed if today’s technology remains effective. Thousands of growers are randomly surveyed about their IRM compliance practices each year through EPA mandated on-farm assessments and phone surveys. Under EPA's program, growers who do not comply with refuge requirements can lose access to the technology. Similarly, seed dealers who do not follow through on their commitments stand to lose their ability to sell the products. 

NCGA and trait providers have established several resources for growers developing IRM plans and a refuge strategy for their farms. Seed companies provide information about refuge requirements, and the NCGA offers the IRM Learning Center, an interactive tutorial available on its Web site.

In addition, seed company representatives and dealers can work with growers to develop an IRM plan that meets each grower's needs. 

“There are a number of options available to protecting refuge against insect pests, including field placement, seed treatments and soil-applied insecticides,” says Barbre.

Growers have demonstrated a strong commitment to protecting biotechnology by adhering to the IRM requirements. On-farm assessments and a series of independent surveys will take place again this year on behalf of the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee.  ABSTC has monitored adherence to the IRM requirements since 1999 to help ensure biotech corn technology remains effective against pests and is readily available to all growers.

 The ABSTC includes biotech corn registrants Dow AgroSciences; Monsanto Company; Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of DuPont; and Syngenta Seeds. They have worked with a number of stakeholder groups such as the NCGA, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, seed companies and universities since 1999 to promote farmer compliance with refuge requirements for biotech corn. For additional information on biotechnology, visit www.ncga.com.

Source: National Corn Growers Association