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It’s in the Bag
Farmers are gaining a new tool to manage corn rootworm and several other insects—refuge-in-a-bag (RIB). This product nixes the need for a separate 5% to 20% refuge because it’s already contained in the bag. This saves time and nixes the hassle of planting separate refuges.
Earlier this month, we stopped by the Steve and Gina Prohaska farm near Garner, Iowa. The Prohaskas were planting a DeKalb Brand Genuity SmartStax RIB Complete Corn that day. This product combines 95% SmartStax corn with 5% refuge (non-Bt) seed in each bag. The RIB product is being introduced in limited quantities in the Corn Belt this spring.
Corn rootworm is public enemy number one for the Prohaskas. They raise continuous corn, which corn rootworm likes. The Prohaskas have found soil-applied insecticides give limited residual protection. “We are seeing rootworm hatches much of the summer,” says Steve. At best, soil-applied insecticides protect corn for six weeks following planting.
The SmartStax RIB product nixes such pest worries, giving season-long protection. It contains six insect-resistant traits that protect against below-ground pests like corn rootworm and above-ground pests like this western bean cutworm.
“The impact of refuge in a bag is going to be huge,” says Steve. “It allows us to plant traited (SmartStax) corn on more acres, increasing the potential for higher whole farm returns. There’s also the convenience of not having to get insecticides to the field and for me, personally, not having to handle the insecticides after 35 years of exposure to them."
The Prohaskas also believe RIB offers a big time-savings factor. The Prohaska’s seed tender contains two separate compartments, one for traited corn and the other for refuge corn. With RIB, they can fill both compartments with RIB seed.
Steve thinks RIB will help shave 10% off planting time. That enables him, Gina (pictured), and employee Dick Johnson (pictured) to plant quicker. “We fill the tender in the morning with RIB and are able to plant all day without returning to refill the tender with seed,” says Steve. The arrangement also eliminates the hassle of trying to empty the planter when switching to refuge corn or back to traited corn.
For a traited hybrid to succeed, though, it first has to have top genetics behind it. Yield potential is key for the Prohaskas. Another is disease resistance. Since the prolific residue of continuous corn can be a disease haven, a good disease-resistant package is a must for the Prohaskas.
They also apply a 10-34-0 liquid starter fertilizer. “It gives the corn a boost in cold soils,” says Steve.
Even emergence is also paramount for the Prohaskas. “It’s important to plant all the seeds at the right depth,” says Steve. “We want all seeds to emerge uniformly, not some one day and the other 7 days later.”
Fungicide application is growing in popularity on corn for many Midwestern farmers. The Prohaskas have also used fungicide applications to hike corn yields. On-farm applications of Headline have spiked yields by 13.4 yields per acre in on-farm tests, says Steve.
Last year was a banner year for corn yields for the Prohaskas, with 600 acres of their farm averaging over 235 bushels to the acre. They say the RIB corn will help them build on this trend. “We are confident we will raise our whole farm return while reducing our risk at the same time,” say Steve.