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Corn+Soybean Digest

Plan For Refuge Acres Now

As you make plans for seed purchases and planting, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) reminds biotech corn growers that the development of an insect resistance management (IRM) plan should be an essential and required part of your 2008 planning process.

Planting a biotech corn refuge helps decrease the natural selection pressures that can lead to insect resistance. These refuge acres ensure that rare resistant insects that feed on insect-protected varieties of corn will mate with susceptible insects and slow the development of resistance.

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

“Since the introduction of biotech traits, the vast majority of corn growers have taken the appropriate measures and planted refuge acreage in order to protect the efficacy of this important technology,” says Martin Barbre, chairman of NCGA's Biotechnology Working Group and a grower from Carmi, IL. “As the popularity and yield benefits from the use of these technologies increases, it's more important than ever for farmers to follow the refuge requirements.”

To prevent or delay resistance development to biotech crops,Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registrations require at least a 20% refuge for current biotech corn borer and corn root worm traits in northern states. In southern states, where both biotech cotton and corn are planted, the EPA requires at least a 50%refuge for corn borer traits.

In addition to protecting current technology, adherence to refuge requirements is important for the commercialization of next-generation biotech traits.

Regulatory officials and trait providers are closely watching corn growers' adoption and use of current traits. This track record will be reviewed as regulators determine refuge size, planting flexibility and other authorizations for future technology products. Furthermore, future traits that build on today's technology will only be fully successful if today's technology remains effective.

Thousands of growers are randomly surveyed about their IRM compliance practices each year through EPA-mandated on-farm assessments and phone surveys. Under the EPA program, growers who do not comply with refuge requirements can lose access to the technology. Similarly, seed dealers who do not follow through on their commitments stand to lose their ability to sell the products.

“Plan your refuge this fall while you are placing your 2008 seed order to ensure access to refuge hybrids that complement the biotech hybrids you will plant,” Barbre says. “There are a number of options available to protect refuges against insect pests, including field placement, seed treatments and soil-applied insecticides.”

For an interactive tutorial on refuge requirements, check out www.ncga.com/biotechnology/main/index.asp.

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