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Refuge requirements change for Bt corn

Posted Monday, March 14, 2011, at 4:37 PM

Last fall in an attempt to tighten up Bt corn refuge requirements and oversight, the EPA has mandated seed corn companies put several new requirements in their refuge assurance programs for the 2011 growing season. The Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee has reported that corn IRM (Integrated refuge management) compliance for the 2010 growing season remained unchanged from 2009, but there is room for improvement. All growers need to follow refuge requirements to help protect the efficacy of this important technology.

Under the Compliance Assurance Program, thousands of growers are surveyed about their IRM compliance practices each year through EPA mandated on-farm assessments. 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 the ability to sell the products.

The new requirements mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency as part of the Bt corn re-registration process are as follows:

1. On-farm compliance assessments will be conducted by an independent third-party and will be focused on areas of highest risk of insect pest resistance development, and on growers who did not buy sufficient refuge seed from the Bt corn registrant. This is new in that before the assessments were random. For the second part concerning sufficient seed, producers commonly buy seed from several companies. Since there is no sharing of information, what the seed supplier knows is what he provided. The producer may have bought his refuge corn somewhere else. What will be checked is if sufficient refuge corn was bought for the total corn acreage.

2. Growers found to be out of compliance with the refuge requirements will now have a higher probability of losing access to Bt corn if compliance is not established and maintained and they will be checked more frequently by the Bt corn registrants.

3. Seed bag tags will better depict refuge size requirements. Growers have more product choices offering unique IRM requirements which can complicate refuge planning.

The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) along with seed companies has developed the IRM calculator to help clarify refuge systems options and show growers how to execute the requirements properly. All the company traits and products are listed. Recommendations are also based on state and county. The calculator is located at www.irmcalculator.com . The calculator is very user friendly.

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As our local University of Missouri Agronomy Extension Specialist, Crook has been writing a column for the print edition Agriculture page for the past three years and we will now be sharing it on our web version. Crook has a bachelor and masters degree in agronomy from University of Missouri and received his doctorate in Agronomy from Kansas State University. He was in soybean variety development research for 22 years for various seed companies and has been Saline County's agronomy specialist for 10 years.
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