In early April, Dekalb Vietnam, a subsidiary of Monsanto, launched the first Integrated Knowledge Transfers fields in Dong Nai province. The program aims to provide hundreds of Vietnamese farmers the opportunity for the first time to grow corn seeds with weed management and insect protection traits and transfer the knowledge to thousands of farmers to better capture yield potential and make farming operation more stable, successful and profitable.
Vietnam’s corn imports have been soaring to meet growing feed demands. In 2014, Vietnam imported 4.79 million tons of corn, up sharply by more than 119 percent in volume over the same period of 2013. To address this challenge, Vietnam’s government made two important decisions in 2014. First, it issued the Master Agriculture Restructuring Plan along with the supporting policies to convert from rice to other crops like corn in the region of Mekong Delta. Second, it approved corn seeds with weed management and insect protection traits after a decade of shaping the regulatory framework.
Benefits of Corn with New Traits
“It is really encouraging to hear how corn seeds with weed management and insect protection traits help farmers better manage the crop, and reduce yield loss due to pests and weed,” said Pham Dong Quang, Deputy Director of Crop Production Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, during the visits to the GM cornfields in Dong Nai. “From these initial results, we expect that this technology, when applied to actual crop production in Vietnam, to benefit local farmers and contribute to improved productivity and quality of domestic corn, ease the pressure from growing corn imports, and better protect the environment and human health from the reduction in pesticide use.”
To optimize the effectiveness of any new technology, knowledge transfer is a key success factor. Applying in-the-seed weed management and insect protection trait technologies in agriculture is no exception to this knowledge transfer process.
“Vietnam is importing more than four million tons of corn every year,” said Nguyễn Đình Mạnh Chiến, CEO, Dekalb Vietnam. “Given the right tools and techniques, farmers can help Vietnam become a self-sufficient global contributor in agriculture. We hope that our integrated efforts from offering better products, knowledge transfer to partnerships would support farmers to achieve better harvest and improve lives.”
First farmer to grow GM corn in Vietnam
In the flourishing cornfield in Dong Nai, Nguyen Lam, a lifetime corn-growing farmer and one of the first to grow GM corn in his own field, said that previously, when using the conventional corn seeds without the in-the-seed weed management and insect protection trait technologies, he had to buy pesticides to control insects and hire labor for spraying two to three times per season.
Also, when using the seeds without weed management trait (herbicide-tolerance), he had to spray different herbicides very carefully at different times per season, and could not always spray easily between rows, as earlier herbicide can damage the crop, and rain often precludes spraying. With the corn seeds with insect protection and weed management traits, he can “sow it, spray it, forget it.” He sows the seeds and then sprays the specially recommended herbicide over the top of the corn crop. It’s protected from sowing to harvest from the main target pest – Asian corn borer – with in-built pest protection. This offers both convenience and flexibility in weed management. “This helps me optimize inputs and maximize my potential yield and income,” he said.
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