It’s safe to say that Bt traits are beneficial to corn production and farming operations. Since their introduction, Bt traits have helped farmers more effectively manage problematic insects in corn.
Before Bt corn, managing insects looked different, and the use of this trait has changed the way farmers approach insect management. Before, farmers were at the mercy of the insects, with very few options for control. Now, there is built-in protection against those pests.
If farmers don’t use proper stewardship practices to protect the technology available on the market today, they put themselves at risk of losing it to resistance, and they could go back to the time when they had to hold their breath and hope they didn’t lose yield to those harmful insects.
“Bt technology has changed the way we look at managing pests in our corn crop,” says Chad Wetzel, corn farmer from Tom Bean, Texas. “Without it, we’re looking at a pretty significant drop in our profitability potential.”
By taking a few steps to effectively manage Bt corn, farmers can protect this technology for years to come.
Plant a Refuge
The most important management tactic to protect Bt corn from resistance is to plant a refuge. When planted correctly, the only surviving Bt-susceptible insects in the field have fed on the non-Bt refuge corn. If an insect survives after feeding on Bt corn, when it mates with another insect, it reduces the chances of the Bt-resistance traits being passed down to the next generation.
If a farmer decides to forgo planting the required refuge, it increases the chances of an insect that has fed on Bt corn finding another insect to mate with, meaning it is more likely to survive after feeding on Bt corn and pass the resistant traits down to subsequent generations. This is just the beginning of resistance development in Bt corn.
It may seem like a lot of work to plant the extra refuge. However, the benefits of protecting Bt technology outweigh the costs.
“If we do it the right way now, we can bank on this technology in the future,” says Wetzel.
Use Multiple Insect Management Practices
Planting a refuge is just one piece in the puzzle when it comes to managing Bt resistance. Insect resistance management (IRM) strategies diversify control and reduce dependence on Bt traits for control. IRM plans reduce the pressure of resistance development.
Effective IRM programs include multiple management practices, like cultural practices such as crop rotation, selecting pyramided traits, rotating Bt trait modes of action, scouting to monitor effectiveness of control measures and identify if further action is needed, and rotating and using multiple modes of action for insecticide seed treatments and applications of insecticides.
“Our IRM plan is all about outsmarting the insects. Besides planting a refuge, we rotate soybeans and wheat between corn crops and scout fields to make sure our control methods are working and to identify potential problem areas for next season,” says Wetzel.
Bt traits are an important tool to have in the toolbox of insect management. Farmers have the tools and knowledge they need to protect themselves from Bt resistance. The key is knowing how to put them to good use to make them work.
For more information on managing Bt resistance, visit www.IWillTakeAction.com