Many no-tillers have been wondering when the refuge requirement for Bt corn hybrids might be reduced. With a reduced refuge, they’ve been calculating how much corn yields could be raised across their operations. 

The good news is that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that the size of the required refuge with a new SmartStax insect-protection and weed-control platform in corn will be trimmed from 20% to only 5% of the acres in the Corn Belt and Canada in 2010. The refuge requirement for corn grown in Southern states where cotton is planted will be 20% rather than the current 50% requirement.

This represents the first change in refuge requirements since EPA enacted them in 1999 to help prevent corn insects, such as the European corn borer, from developing resistance to Bt technology.

Developed jointly by Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, SmartStax will be offered on 3 to 4 million acres of corn in 2010.

5% To 10% More Corn

 “The 5% refuge for SmartStax will give farmers a tremendous advantage to increase total farm corn yields by 5% to 10%,” says Robb Fraley, chief technology officer and executive vice president at Monsanto. “This reduced refuge will be easier for farmers, further reduce insecticide use and enhance the long-term durability of the technology.”

“The multiple modes of action of SmartStax reduce the likelihood of insect resistance,” adds Jerome Peribere, Dow AgroSciences president. “Farmers will benefit from increased productivity due to improved pest protection and a reduced refuge.”

What’s Involved? SmartStax will include the following weed and insect protection:

  • Aboveground insect control for protection against European corn borer, corn earworm, western bean cutworm, black cutworm, southwestern corn borer, fall armyworm and other pests. This combines Dow’s Herculex I insect protection technology and Monsanto’s VT Pro, a second-generation, two-gene lepidopteran control product that is contained in Genuity Triple Pro.
  • For belowground insect control, a combination of Herculex RW and YieldGard VT Rootworm/RR offers protection against Western, Northern and Mexican corn rootworms.

Broad-spectrum weed and grass control includes Monsanto’s Roundup Ready 2 technology with Bayer CropScience’s LibertyLink herbicide tolerance, available in all Herculex hybrids.

Favorable Results

“Extensive research gives us confidence that the trait combination will provide more value than current traits on the market through more consistent insect control and reduced refuge requirements,” says Brent Stauffacher, SmartStax product manager for Dow AgroSciences.