When it comes to a rapid adoption of transgenic corn hybrids across the Midwest, Ohio growers appear to be bucking the trend and holding more tightly onto their non-GMO hybrids.
Though far more transgenic hybrids are available to growers than non-GMO (genetically modified organism) hybrids, Ohio growers are snatching up non-GMO seed and planting more non-GMO acres than their Midwest counterparts, including Indiana, Illinois and Iowa.
Some reasons, says Ohio State University Extension agronomist Peter Thomison, include economics, premiums and fewer pest problems.
"Most of these growers are looking at non-GMO from an economic standpoint. It's less costly to buy non-GMO seed. In addition, we don't have as much of a problem with insect pests, like the first-year rootworm variant, as states further west do," Thomison says. "Growers also like non-GMO hybrids to take advantage of premiums for non-GMO grain. In addition, farmers who grow their crop organically are required to plant non-GMO hybrids."
Ohio has more non-transgenic corn acreage than any other state in the Corn Belt. Nearly 30% of the acreage is non-transgenic, while in other Midwest states, it’s typically less than 20%.
"This year in our Ohio Corn Performance Trials, we tested nearly 40 non-transgenic hybrids, which is the most we've tested in several years," Thomison says. "Many non-transgenic hybrids are still competing effectively with transgenic hybrids."
Transgenic hybrids dominate the seed market, says Thomison, and the range and diversity of non-transgenic hybrids may be more limited for Ohio growers in the future.
"We tested over 275 hybrids in our trials in 2010 and nearly 80% of those hybrids were transgenic, with three or more traits protecting against pests and exhibiting herbicide resistance," Thomison says. "So for those growers who are interested in transgenics, there are plenty of hybrids to choose from."
Thomison recommends that growers focus on the performance characteristics of a hybrid rather than looking at a hybrid solely for its transgenic qualities.
"It's important to select hybrids first for yield potential, adaption, maturity, stability, stalk lodging and disease resistance," Thomison says. "Choosing transgenics with insect- or herbicide-resistance traits is the easy part because transgenics are becoming readily available."