UNL CropWatch March 4, 2011: New Farm Assessment Process for Insect Resistance Management

UNL CropWatch March 4, 2011: New Farm Assessment Process for Insect Resistance Management

March 4, 2011

The Environmental Protection Agency has encouraged technology providers to further strive to ensure appropriate refuges are maintained as part of an insect resistance management (IRM) program. If a proper refuge is not maintained, there is concern that insects will become resistant to Bt-derived traits, making the technology less useful to farmers.

In the past, technology providers did their own monitoring, or sometimes contracted with organizations like the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA) to assess randomly selected customers to monitor IRM compliance with EPA requirements. However, this year technology providers came together to contract with AOSCA on a national level and make the program completely independent from the seed companies.

Nebraska Assessment Process

Planning Your IRM Strategy

The face-to-face IRM assessments will take less time for farmers who have

  • used the IRM Refuge Calculator developed by the National Corn Growers Association,
  • followed the plan, and
  • have a printout of what they did for use at the time of the assessment.

In an upcoming issue of CropWatch, Extension entomologist Tom Hunt will give a refresher on refuge requirements for various seed technologies this year.

The Nebraska Crop Improvement Association, a member of AOSCA, will be conducting the assessments in Nebraska. Each seed company will provide a list of randomly selected customers to ASOCA, who will then provide the names to each participating state. In June after corn planting is complete the Nebraska Crop Improvement Association will send letters to growers and follow up with phone calls to schedule appointments.

The assessments which must be conducted face to face, are fairly simple and typically take 10 to 20 minutes. The assessor will ask about total on-farm corn acres, what Bt products were planted, and how many acres were planted as a refuge for each Bt product.

The assessor is not required to do acre verification nor do they ask farmers to open their books for closer examination. It’s a pretty quick and simple process once we make contact and set up a time to meet. The assessors appreciate farmers who are flexible to enable them to fit their assessment into a schedule that helps them save travel time.

Farmers who use Bt traits are required to sign Technology Use Agreements with their seed supplier. This agreement outlines the farmer’s responsibilities to meet IRM refuge requirements. It also requires farmers to provide information on their refuge when asked as part of the compliance program. If a farmer is selected to be part of the compliance program and is found to be out of compliance, they’ll be given information by the seed company, to help them come into compliance and will be re-assessed the following year. Growers are randomly selected for their first assessment and if a grower declines to comply with the interview or meet with the assessor, they may be deemed out of compliance.

Online Tool Aids IRM Refuge Strategy

Considering the number of refuge options for Bt crops, different refuge requirements for different traits, refuge in a bag programs and more, it is more challenging than ever to map out an IRM strategy. An IRM Refuge Calculator put together by the National Corn Growers Association in partnership with all major technology providers can help.

The IRM calculator will download to your computer, either a PC or Mac, and runs without any additional access to the Internet. Farmers can choose their state and county and then pick whether to calculate for a single field or multiple fields and farms. Users then choose the technologies they use -- corn borer, rootworm or stacked traits -- which then allows a choice of specific products by brand name. Seed population rates also can be entered, allowing the software to calculate the number of needed seed bags for the Bt. products and refuge acres.

Common or separate refuge options are made available where appropriate, and pictures are provided allowing farmers to see various refuge options for each specific Bt trait. The program works well in conjunction with the applicable seed manufacturer’s Stewardship Guide, which explains the acceptable refuge configurations in more detail.

When farmers are done making the calculations, they can print out everything to use later or keep the information in a file.

The face-to-face IRM assessments will take less time for farmers, who have used the calculator, followed the plan, and have a printout of what they did for use at the time of the assessment.

Steve Knox
Nebraska Crop Improvement Association