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Corn+Soybean Digest

NCGA to Growers: Respect the Refuge

Amid the holiday cards and gifts in the mail, U.S. corn growers need to be on the watch for a postcard reminder about an important part of their work, according to the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) – part of the new Respect the Refuge communications campaign that stresses the importance of setting aside refuge acres when planting certain biotech corn hybrids.

“Our corn growers keep up with advances in biotechnology and realize the importance of the refuge program to protect their crops and the industry,” says Martin Barbre, chairman of the NCGA’s Biotechnology Working Group and a grower from Carmi, IL. “Communications campaigns such as this are powerful reminders for growers about the refuge program.”

The refuge program is a key responsibility for corn growers using Bt corn, a hybrid that contains a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, which produce proteins that can kill European corn borer or corn rootworms. Growers use Bt corn as an alternative to spraying insecticides for control of European corn borer. Planting a refuge of non-Bt corn in a field is crucial to ensure that European corn borer and corn rootworms do not develop resistance to the Bt proteins. These refuge acres ensure that rare resistant insects have a population of susceptible insects to mate with thus diluting any resistance in their offspring.

The postcard lists the top reasons for compliance:

It is mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Growers who don’t comply could lose access to Bt corn

It protects the value of the technology and ensures its longevity

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 insect resistance could cost U.S. farmers billions of dollars through yield reduction and increased pesticide use.

In addition, NCGA is working with others in the Bt corn industry to place billboards in several states promoting the importance of a refuge. Interstate and highway drivers in certain parts of Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, South Dakota, Missouri, Tennessee and Mississippi will be seeing them this winter.

For more information, visit the Insect Resistance Management section at

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