Sunday, February 19, 2012

Not helping...  

I have long been uncomfortable with "bragvocacy" simply because it violates a standard of public conduct based on humility, which in turn derives from honest self-assessment. I mean, I have a pretty good idea whether I'm better than others morally. [Thanks to all of you who happily chime in from time to time to keep me reminded of my manifold flaws]

One of the most grating claims is we are the "first" environmentalists. That may be historically true, simply because we are one of the oldest professions. But even if we were first, we seem to be trying for worst as well.
Monsanto Co. and other seed makers reported a threefold increase last year in U.S. farmers caught violating requirements for planting genetically modified corn.
The data relates to farmers planting seeds that are genetically modified to produce a toxin derived from Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, a natural insecticide. The Environmental Protection Agency requires the growers to plant an adjacent area -- a so-called refuge -- of non-Bt corn so that bugs don’t become immune.
About 41 percent of 3,053 farmers inspected in 2011 failed to fully comply with the refuge requirement, according to data from the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee, which Monsanto provided today in an e-mail. [More]
This is not going to end well.  And I suspect the biotech boom may be at least peaking. Thanks to such irresponsible farming practices, we're triggering the possible dissipation of both RR and Bt technology.

I look at our farm. We're using Liberty on all our corn to get the marestails, waterhemp, and ragweed. We're also using full-rate residuals in some fields. When it comes to RR resistance, we believe.

But the clue for the future for me was a visit to the Amvac booth in Louisville. Aaron bought a bigger planter and needed 4 more SmartBoxes to size up. Only we couldn't seem to get them.

It turns out they can't make them fast enough, even with 50% higher production in their plant. In fact, if you haven't ordered by now, it likely cannot get there in time. Meanwhile try finding the Aztec or Force to fill them. (We've located some used untis which should work fine, and our CPS fertilizer guy had ordered our Aztec for us, since we plant considerable non-GM specialty corn)

According to the Amvac rep, the demand is coming from north of I-80 - which surprised me. I thought is was likely from the eastern Corn Belt where "refuge corn" have been the best yielders for the past few seasons. (I theorize we are drowning what few larvae are hatching from depleted adult numbers thanks to Bt corn, but this is purely amateur entomology).

It seems the continuous corn is taking big hits from resistant rootworms in northern fields, so the plan seems to be plant multiple traits AND apply full rate insecticide. This strategy is a good one if you are over 55 and won't be farming ten years from now.

Otherwise, it looks like producers as a group are bound and determined to see how fast and often we can shoot ourselves in the foot. We are re-enacting the Tragedy of the Commons even with full knowledge of how the story will turn out.
On another issue, we just attended meetings where rootworm resistance to the Cry3Bb1 gene that was discovered in the central Midwest was discussed among researchers, extension specialists, and the various seed companies.  So far, resistance has not been seen with any of the other gene proteins.  Of primary concern was how to handle corn plantings in future years in those areas where resistance developed.  Resistance has NOT been found in Ohio rootworm populations.  However, of importance to Ohio growers is to remind them of the continued potential for resistance to develop, and what we need to do to help prevent it from occurring in our state. 
As discussed last August in the C.O.R.N. 2011-26 issue, growers should
1) rotate to another crop such as soybean (albeit keeping an eye out for the western corn rootworm variant),
2) ALWAYS PLANT THE REFUGE (remember that this is a requirement, which will automatically be planted if you use an RIB, or refuge in the bag, product),
3) if deciding to plant continuous corn, rotate among other rootworm management tactics such as using a soil insecticide, and
4) if wanting to continue to plant a rootworm Bt hybrid to control rootworm larvae, use a pyramided gene product such as SmartStax or rotate to a single gene product not containing the Cry3Bb1 gene. [More]
I find myself thinking this is just a hiccup and we're a long way from full-blown rootworm multiple trait resistance.

And then I look back ten years and see what I said about RR resistance. 


Anonymous said...

Hi John, In my cynical view there are 2 other things going on here as well.
1) The rate of noncompliance with refuge planting has been too high for years now and the trait companies are only now admitting to it to help deploy RIB at profitable prices(for them)as the solution.
2) In pursuit of profits farmers have flocked to gmo seed and allowed the seed companies to restrict the amount of new quality non gmo products available.

We're all guilty on all accounts.

not a robot

Anonymous said...

Weren't there continuos corn growers around 30-40 years ago? What did they do? I know nothing about the practice myself, just curious.

Anonymous said...

Monoculture has it's problems but people will usually do what you pay them to do in the short run. In the long run (those that can survive the negatives of quick bucks) will do what creats wealth.