Planting a refuge necessary for preserving Bt technology

in Southwest Farm Press

Southern corn growers will pull their planters out of the shed and into the field in only a few short weeks. Bt corn will be planted on millions of acres across the South, protecting plants from damaging insects like corn borer and corn earworm. But to ensure that the technology remains effective, farmers in cotton-growing areas must plant a structured refuge alongside their Bt corn.

“Planting a refuge is the single most important thing we can do to keep Bt traits working for years to come,” said Chad Wetzel, a farmer from Tom Bean, Texas, and member of the National Corn Growers Association Freedom to Operate Action Team. “If we lose Bt technology as a defense against insects, growing corn will change dramatically.” Continue reading

Research team finds that natural enemies help delay insecticide resistance, protect Bt crops

Despite the controversy over them, transgenic crops have helped growers fend off some of the most destructive pests. The higher yield that results has provided consumers more affordable food. When used properly as a part of an integrated pest management program, transgenic crops can be an effective and economical way to manage certain pests, diseases and weeds. Unfortunately, as the failures of Roundup Ready crops have shown, transgenic crops are not sustainable when used as the sole pest management tactic.

When Bt technology came out, the Environmental Protection Agency instituted a requirement to have a “refuge” plot of crops not protected with Bt to maintain a population of pests that were not exposed to the Bt toxin. The refuge could be treated with an insecticide; it just couldn’t be treated with Bt. The theory behind the refuge was that having a plot of the crop that was treated with a different insecticide would give the pest species a non-Bt alternative, so that those individuals would still be susceptible to Bt, mate with individuals who had been exposed to Bt and pass on their Bt-susceptible genes to the next generation, therefore delaying resistance. Continue reading

Controlling corn insects in 2013

Most corn insect control decisions are made before the planter hits the field. “Of course, decisions to control stalk borers in non-Bt corn, as well as cutworms and stink bugs in all corn, are made in-season,” says Auburn University entomologist Kathy Flanders.

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