Dow AgroSciences: Bt corn not the place to cut


With challenging farm economics, farmers may be looking for ways to boost profit margins, including reducing input costs. Some may think about planting non-Bt corn, but a Dow AgroSciences expert says Bt trait technology is not the place to cut.

“Planting corn without Bt technology may seem like a good decision on paper, but farmers should consider what that could mean for their operation during the season,” says Brad Hopkins, Dow AgroSciences biology team leader, global seed treatments and North America insect resistant traits. “Every year brings unique challenges, and Bt technology offers cost-effective yield protection if insect outbreaks occur.”

Hopkins says it is important for farmers to assess potential insect pressure and choose the appropriate Bt trait technology for their acres. In areas with a history of corn rootworm pressure, cutting back on below-ground protection can have substantial impact on yield. Even if corn rootworm is not a major concern, farmers should carefully weigh the impact of cutting above-ground Bt protection.

Planting non-Bt corn, or choosing less-than-adequate protection, comes with potential costs not included in the seed purchase. For example, non-Bt corn requires more time to scout and closely monitor pest infestations. If populations reach threshold levels, insecticide applications mean additional inputs and time in the field. And once corn rootworm infestations develop in fields without below-ground Bt protection, decreased yield potential is a substantial risk.

“Bt trait technology is a simple way farmers can get season-long protection against many of the primary insect pests in corn,” Hopkins says. “For the last three seasons, adoption of Bt trait technologies among corn growers has been around 80 percent, which speaks to the effectiveness and efficiency of these technologies.”

Hopkins says insect damage can quickly erode yield. An infestation of corn earworm can reduce yield by as much as 5 percent to 7 percent. Although their numbers have been greatly reduced due to broad adoption of Bt corn, European corn borer can still be common in areas where growers are planting non-Bt corn. Depending on the corn growth stage, a European corn borer infestation could mean a yield loss of 8.3 bushels per acre. According to Extension, if corn is priced at $3.40/bu. with average yield at 180 bu./A, Bt trait technology can provide nearly $78/A of yield protection against European corn borer.

Dow AgroSciences offers a choice for corn Bt trait technology so farmers can plant the right technology on the right acre. New for 2017, PowerCore trait technology is a pyramid of three Bt traits that combines three proteins for the broad-spectrum control of above-ground insects in corn. Iowa farmer Bob Henderson used PowerCore trait technology during the stewarded launch, and he says it provides the protection he needs against above-ground pests.

“PowerCore trait technology gives us peace of mind so that we don’t have to worry about black cutworms, corn borers or corn earworms,” Henderson says. “All those insects can take a bushel here or two bushels there, but PowerCore alleviates us from having to worry about the above-ground insect pests that attack corn during the season.”

SmartStax trait technology offers industry-leading protection of above- and below-ground insects, especially for those who have corn rootworm pressure on their farms.

“Dow AgroSciences has been a leader in the corn insect traits market beginning with the Herculex family of traits and then SmartStax trait technology,” Hopkins says. “With the introduction of PowerCore in addition to SmartStax, farmers now have a choice from Dow AgroSciences to plant the right corn Bt trait technology for their farms, depending on field history and agronomic conditions.”

PowerCore and SmartStax are available in the latest germplasm for greater yield potential. Both technologies are available for 2018 planting stacked with the Enlist corn trait, and growers can begin ordering PowerCore Enlist hybrids and SmartStax Enlist hybrids from Dow AgroSciences seed companies later this summer.

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