Corn growers across the United States are preparing to plant the 2018 crop and for many, seed corn containing insect-resistant traits will be an important part of their plans. Growers play an important role in maintaining the long-term viability of these traits by complying with USEPA requirements for insect resistance management (IRM).
Producers have several options for meeting IRM requirements. In some parts of the U.S., corn producers use a structured refuge management approach in their operations, while blended refuge seed corn has been rapidly adopted elsewhere. Those who plant a structured refuge may be selected at random for an on-farm assessment to verify their compliance with the USEPA requirements.
For over twelve years, the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) has conducted these on-farm assessments, enlisting employees of seed certifying agencies in corn-producing states. “Our organization was formed in 1919 to ensure that farmers have access to pure, high quality seed for all their crops,” according to Chet Boruff, AOSCA CEO. “Seed certifying agencies across the United States and in seven other countries work with the seed industry on a wide spectrum of crop species. Working to insure compliance with IRM requirements in corn is a natural extension of our mission to provide farmers access to the best technology available.”
The National Corn Growers Association is a grass-roots organization with members in 48 states. For more than 50 years, its mission has been to promote corn and create opportunities for its members to profitably produce it. Maintaining access to important technologies is one way that NCGA can achieve its mission. This prompted NCGA to initiate the “Take Action Program” that encourages farmers to take the necessary steps to preserve the effectiveness of Bt technology.
Meeting IRM requirements is especially important across the southern U.S. where Bt corn will be planted on millions of acres, protecting plants from damaging insects like corn borer and corn earworm. “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.”
IRM refuge requirements can vary from one part of the country to another and growers should work closely with their seed suppliers to make sure they place their refuge acres correctly. A refuge is part of an insect resistance management plan, and farmers who do not comply with refuge requirements risk losing access to the technology, but it is also essential for Bt stewardship.
“I know all too well that planting a refuge may seem like a non-essential extra step during a busy time of year,” says Wetzel. “Taking short cuts now will only hurt us long-term. We can’t risk losing Bt technology like we’ve lost the effectiveness of some of our herbicide technologies.”
“If a corn grower is selected for an on-farm assessment, that meeting completes the loop in a very important cycle of using Bt technology,” says Boruff. “We all understand that properly meeting IRM requirements is sometimes confusing. That is why the NCGA Take Action program is a valuable service for corn growers who use insect-resistant seed.”
Farmers interested in learning more about Take Action and insect resistance management can visit www.IWillTakeAction.com.