NCGA urges growers to remember refuge planning

As the 2007 corn harvest winds down, growers are looking ahead to the 2008 season and making plans for seed purchases and planting. The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) reminds U.S. biotech corn growers that the development of an Insect Resistance Management (IRM) plan is an essential and required part of their 2008 planning process.

Planting a biotech corn refuge helps decrease the natural selection pressures that can lead to insect resistance. These refuge acres ensure that rare resistant insects that feed on insect-protected varieties of corn will mate with susceptible insects and slow the development of resistance. Leading scientists agree the resistance threat is real and planting a proper refuge will help ensure the longevity of the current products available. Loss of the technology to resistance could cost U.S. farmers billions of dollars through yield reduction and increased pesticide use.

“Since the introduction of biotech traits, the vast majority of corn growers have taken the appropriate measures and planted refuge acreage in order to protect the efficacy of this important technology,” said Martin Barbre, chairman of the NCGA’s Biotechnology Working Group and a grower from Carmi, Ill. “As the popularity and yield benefits from the use of these technologies increases, it is more important than ever for farmers to follow the refuge requirements.”

To prevent or delay resistance development to biotech crops, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registrations require at least a 20 percent refuge for current biotech corn borer and corn rootworm traits in northern states. In southern states, where both biotech cotton and corn are planted, the EPA requires at least a 50 percent refuge for corn borers.

In addition to protecting current technology, adherence to refuge requirements is important for the commercialization of next generation biotech traits. Regulatory officials and trait providers are closely watching corn growers’ adoption and use of current traits. This track record will be reviewed as regulators determine refuge size, planting flexibility and other authorizations for future technology products.

Furthermore, future traits that build on today’s technology will only be fully successful if today’s technology remains effective. Thousands of growers are randomly surveyed about their IRM compliance practices each year through EPA mandated on-farm assessments and phone surveys. Under the EPA program, growers who do not comply with refuge requirements can lose access to the technology. Similarly, seed dealers who do not follow through on their commitments stand to lose their ability to sell the products.

NCGA and trait providers have established a number of resources for growers developing IRM plans and a refuge strategy for their farm. Seed companies provide information about refuge requirements, and the NCGA offers the IRM Learning Center, an interactive tutorial at

In addition, seed company representatives and dealers will be able to work with growers to develop an IRM plan that meets the individual needs of each grower and field.

“Plan your refuge this fall while you are placing your 2008 seed order to ensure access to refuge hybrids that complement the biotech hybrids you will plant,” Barbre said. “There are a number of options available to protecting refuge against insect pests, including field placement, seed treatments and soil-applied insecticides.”

Growers have demonstrated a strong commitment to protecting biotechnology by adhering to the IRM requirements. On-farm assessments and a series of independent surveys will be conducted again this year on behalf of the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee (ABSTC). The ABSTC, which consists of biotech corn registrants, has monitored adherence to the IRM requirements since 1999 to help ensure biotech corn technology remains effective against pests and is readily available to all growers.

The ABSTC includes biotech corn registrants Dow AgroSciences; Monsanto Company; Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., a subsidiary of DuPont; and Syngenta Seeds, Inc. They have worked with a number of stakeholder groups such as the NCGA, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), seed companies and universities since 1999 to promote farmer compliance with refuge requirements for biotech corn.

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