The Value of Biotech Traits in Corn and Soybean

Biotech traits add value to corn products by providing insect protection throughout the entire growing season. Consistent protection facilitates long-term control of pests and helps manage resistance. Herbicide tolerance traits provide more flexible weed control options in corn and soybean.

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Long-term Corn Pest Control. Farmers should consider the benefits of long-term control of corn pests and resistance management with biotech traits. Taking a risk on not controlling pests, such as corn rootworm (CRW), can allow the build-up of pest populations. Consider damage from these corn insects:

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  • Corn earworm causes both direct (kernel feeding) and indirect (introduces pathways for disease) yield loss. Lost yield attributable to corn earworm feeding can be as high as 7%.2
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  • European corn borer can cause up to a 6.6% grain yield loss per corn borer depending on corn growth stage (Table 1).5
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  • Root systems can be completely destroyed under heavy CRW pressure. Grain yield could be reduced by 18% for every complete set of nodes lost to CRW.4
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  • One western bean cutworm per ear can reduce grain yield by 4 bu/acre.3
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Pyramided B.t. Corn Products. Corn products with traits for multiple B.t. toxins to target the same pest are especially important to manage fields with heavy CRW pressure. Targeting larval CRW is important to guard against the build-up of large populations of CRW.

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Monsanto Technology Development Study. CRW control studies from 2010 to 2013 in 12 states evaluated the CRW protection efficacy of SmartStax® RIB Complete® corn blend products compared to similar corn products without B.t. CRW protection.7 In moderate to high CRW pressure situations, SmartStax® RIB Complete® corn blend products provided an average advantage of 20 bu/acre over non-CRW B.t. protected corn products. When a soil-applied insecticide (SAI) was used with non-CRW B.t. protected products, there was a 10 bu/acre advantage for SmartStax RIB Complete corn blend products.

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In low CRW pressure situations, SmartStax RIB Complete corn blend products provided an 8 bu/acre advantage over non-CRW B.t. products that did not have an SAI. If farmers determine they have a low risk for damage from a CRW infestation and decide to plant a non-CRW B.t. product without an insecticide, 8 bu/acre in yield potential could be lost.6

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Soybean Trait Value. Consider the management flexibility with Genuity® Roundup Ready 2 Yield® soybeans. Regardless of herbicide program, herbicides are usually more effective on small weeds (4 inches) compared to larger weeds. However, the soybean crop may also be young at this time, and plants could sustain injury from conventional herbicides. Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® soybeans will offer flexible weed control with tolerance to both glyphosate and dicamba herbicides, pending regulatory approval. In soybeans, these traits will be combined for the first time in Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans and are especially valuable for managing herbicide resistance. The use of residual herbicide products with additional sites of action is an important part of any weed management program and should be included with Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans.

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Summary. Additional management is necessary without traited seed products. The value of traits may be especially noticed when there is high pressure from pests or when weather events interfere with spray schedules. Consider farm size and long-term management of pests when selecting seed products this fall.