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Beyond the Rows is a Monsanto Company blog focused on one of the world’s most important industries, agriculture. Monsanto employees write about Monsanto’s business, the agriculture industry, and the farmer.
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Refuge in the Bag: Will That Be One Bag or Two?

Seed companies—including Monsanto—have been developing the concept of “refuge in the bag,” or RIB for short, for a number of years now. The goal is to make refuge compliance for insect-protected (B.t.) crops easier and simpler for farmers. Today, for most products, the U.S. EPA requires a corn farmer to set aside a percentage of land and plant a structured refuge.

Ideally, a refuge-in-the-bag option provides both types of seed—insect-protected and non-insect-protected—in one bag. The seed company manufactures the right mix based on the refuge percentage required for a particular corn technology. In a true RIB concept, farmers buy the interspersed seed and plant it on all of their acreage. There is no need for special set aside refuge planting.

There are several different product concepts out in the marketplace right now for reduced refuge. Monsanto is currently pursuing U.S. EPA registration for its refuge in the bag concept for Genuity® SmartStaxTM and Genuity VT Double PRO™. (These products currently require a structured refuge planting of 5% in the Corn Belt versus the traditional 20%.) Pioneer Hi-Bred International (a DuPont company) announced the EPA registration of what it calls its blended seed product, Optimum® AcreMaxTM 1, earlier this year. Pioneer is also working toward a single-bag solution for refuge in Optimum AcreMax 2. But it’s not here today.

How does Monsanto’s RIB concept compare to Pioneer’s? Simply, it’s one bag versus two

If approved, Monsanto’s RIB Complete products would enable farmers to plant only one seed product (i.e. “one bag”) on all of their acres. Pioneer’s Optimum AcreMax 1 product still requires farmers to plant two separate products (or two bags) on their acreage and provides only a single mode of action on corn borer and corn rootworm. Two bags are required because the RIB concept in Optimum AcreMAX 1 applies only to corn rootworm not to corn borer. Pioneer has approval for Optimum AcreMax 1 this season, but will need to re-register with the U.S. EPA this fall.

Confused? I was too. Here’s how it currently shakes out. (And for a brief review of refuge and why it’s important, skip to the bottom of this post.

The graphic below shows the percentage of refuge acres currently required for above-ground insects (corn borer) and below-ground insects (corn rootworm) for both products.

*Please note that the above- and below-ground refuge requirement for Genuity SmartStax is 20% in cotton-growing regions in the South.

Monsanto’s Concept

Both Monsanto’s Genuity SmartStax and Genuity VT Double PRO products currently require farmers in the Corn Belt to plant 5% of their acres to separate structured refuge (as illustrated above). The lowered refuge is enabled because the corn technologies employ multiple modes of action. (Mode of action is a classification that describes the way a pesticide works.) Having more modes of action provides a higher likelihood that insects will not develop resistance. The U.S. EPA recognizes that multiple modes of action improve the product’s durability or life span. In fact, EPA has concluded there is an increased risk of resistance with single mode of action products.

Monsanto, cooperator farmers and universities are evaluating the RIB concept in approximately 1,000 locations across the U.S. this summer.

If approved, the orange line you see in the chart above as the “5%” would be non-existent as a structured refuge and the refuge would be interspersed in the field.

Pioneer’s Product

Pioneer’s approach is a two-bag system. A farmer purchases one product with the corn borer and corn rootworm-protected seed. That product includes a blended seed mix of 90% of a rootworm-protected corn hybrid (Herculex® XTRA) and 10% of a non-rootworm protected seed (Herculex® I—to satisfy the rootworm refuge). However, that product can still only be planted on 80 percent (at best) or 50 percent of the acreage (depending on the region) due to corn borer refuge requirements.

A second, separate, product of non-Bt corn or rootworm-protected seed (Herculex® RW) must be planted on either 20 percent or 50 percent of the acreage (again, depending on region) as the corn borer refuge. This is shown above in the chart in the green/yellow diagram. The yellow 20% refuge portion also needs to be planted up to a half mile away from the rest of the field. Pioneer says this is convenient to farmers because it’s easier to switch out the whole planter for a different field rather than reconfigure the planter for an in-field or adjacent refuge.

Sound complicated? It shouldn’t be.

More Resources from Monsanto.com

NOTE: To help preserve the effectiveness and benefits of Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.) technology, growers are required to follow an Insect Resistance Management (IRM) plan. Growers must read the IRM Grower Guide prior to planting for details on planting a refuge, geographical restrictions, and other requirements of the IRM Plan.

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