By Ty Vaughn
Corn Product Management Lead
Agriculture is being challenged this year with a widespread lack of moisture that is creating immense stress on corn and soybean crops. This situation began in 2011 with a very hot and dry fall followed by an unusually warm and dry winter. In addition, the warm spring accelerated planting as well as some of the challenges that normally appear later in the season, such as corn rootworm pressure.
In 2012, we took an aggressive approach regarding corn rootworm pressure to better understand it and the factors that impact product performance. First, we created five new Insect Management roles on our Technology Development team. These individuals are working closely with our Agronomy and Sales teams to provide real time information in order to best serve our dealers and ultimately our growers.
Second, we committed to follow–up on every field that had corn rootworm damage last year that triggered a performance inquiry and understand how our Best Management Practices (BMPs) performed. I’m pleased to report that the efforts of our field team have been a huge success. While there are a few fields left to evaluate, growers were able to successfully manage these fields across the Corn Belt using one of our recommended BMPs.
And finally, we increased our efforts in high corn rootworm pressure fields where our traits were performing as expected, to understand if there were patterns that help explain why some fields have challenges and others do not. This will help us define future BMPs for fields with different histories such as corn-on-corn rotations and late planted corn.
We recognize that many people are interested in ensuring that Bt traits remain a viable tool for farmers, and have been in regular discussions with the EPA, the USDA, the academic community and growers. As a result, we invited key individuals from across these groups to join us in Iowa and Nebraska to make firsthand assessments of field conditions, product performance as well as continue open dialogue. These visits and discussions were not a part of, or a substitute for, any action related to the EPA registrations of our products, including conditions of registration and annual monitoring requirements.
As expected, with the mild winter and early growing season, we saw normal to heavy corn rootworm pressure in many of the fields we visited in both Iowa and Nebraska. We found that farmers who planted Genuity SmartStax RIB Complete are seeing excellent protection from root damage in the field. Farmers who planted a single-mode-of-action technology with a soil-applied insecticide generally are also seeing protection from corn rootworm root damage. However, a few farmers have seen challenges due to the dry, hot weather where there has not been adequate water for soil-applied insecticides to be effective. In very high pressure areas, foliar sprays have been used to control adult beetles.
We’re committed to working with farmers to understand the circumstances and the history of their fields to provide agronomic solutions for the current and future growing seasons that maximize productivity. We believe the BMPs we have taken to the field will contribute to farmer choice, success with their choice and the long-term durability of corn-trait technologies.