Traits on the way
My colleague John Walter has a saying that 'when you come right down to it, farming is still about mud, rocks, bugs and weeds.' So far, no company has found a trait to deter mud and rocks. That’s not the case, though, with bugs and weeds.
In a perfect world, corn would yield 600 bushels per acre or more. This, of course, is before a multitude of pests and diseases attack it. Ear attackers like corn earworm not only do damage to kernels, but also leave an entry point for mycotoxins to attack corn.
Black cutworm is another corn pest that particularly ravages early corn stands by up to 50%. Even if black cutworm doesn’t kill corn, it can weaken plants and make them prone to other stressors.
Ever notice chewed-up corn plants along borders or grass alleyways? “A lot of this damage was done by fall armyworm when the plant was smaller, when all the leaves were in the whorl,” says Bruce Battles, agronomy marketing manager for Syngenta Seeds.
Help is on the way, though, says Battles. Corn earworm is one of 14 insects controlled by Syngenta’s Agrisure Viptera 3111 trait stack that debuts this year. Syngenta officials say a multi-pest complex (black cutworm, stalk borer, fall armyworm, western bean cutworm, and corn earworm) damages 238 million bushels of corn annually.
Agrisure Artesian is Syngenta’s new water optimization technology that debuts in 2011. The first phase you’ll see this year uses native traits to help corn plants better manage moisture. “Farmers can relate to those hybrids that conserve water on those tight clay soils,” says Battles. “There is a gene in those hybrids that help them manage water a little better than others.”
Soybeans have lagged behind corn when it comes to traits. However, Battles notes soybean traits Syngenta has coming down the pike in future years include:
- - A transgenic trait for nematode control.
- - HPPD-inhibitor herbicide tolerance for soybeans.
- - Soybean rust tolerance.
Syngenta launched its Aphid Management System in 2010. It uses a multi-pronged aphid control approach that includes the Rag1 gene, the seed treatment Cruiser Maxx Beans, beneficial insects, and if necessary, a foliar insecticide application of Warrior II or Indigo, says Scott Payne, marketing research agronomist for Syngenta.