Cotton Links


Producers Appreciate BG II
Natural Refuge

Producers across the Cotton Belt have gotten their first taste of being able to rely on a “natural refuge” for Bollgard II for the 2008 growing season, and this new arrangement for addressing Insect Resistance Management (IRM) is getting positive reviews.

The natural refuge option – approved for the first time this season – allows producers to plant cotton varieties containing the Bollgard II trait from fencerow to fencerow, without the need for the structured non-Bt cotton refuge previously required for the original Bollgard cotton and, before this year, Bollgard II cotton as well.

As a result, cotton producers are able to take advantage of other crops and naturally-occurring plants in close proximity to Bollgard II fields to provide refuge that generates insects susceptible to the Bt proteins.

“This means that cotton producers no longer have to grapple with the planning, planting and management of structured non-Bt cotton refuges when they plant Bollgard II cotton,” says Dr. Walt Mullins, Monsanto technical manager for cotton traits.

“This does away with the 95-5, 80-20, embedded, sprayed and unsprayed decisions and implementation that had been necessary before now when growing all types of Bt cotton. This also should save time and reduce costs for cotton farmers.”

Positive Reactions

Doug Boyd, a cotton producer in Pinetown, N.C., planted approximately 1,800 acres of Bollgard II cotton in 2008. He says he was delighted not having to plant a structured non-Bt cotton refuge like he has in past years.

“Things move so fast at planting,” Boyd says. “We have two large planters that cover 120 acres between refills and can easily plant 400 acres per day. In the past, we would have to slow everything down to plant our smaller refuge fields. Now, we can avoid the downtime it required to plant the non-Bt cotton refuges. That should cut our labor costs and allow us to cover more acres per day.”

Boyd also notes that planting a non-Bt cotton refuge often meant growing a cotton variety that he normally would not choose to plant otherwise. And, by being able to plant Bollgard II across all of his cotton fields, he expects his yield average to increase.

“We pretty much have always taken a yield hit on our refuge acres, and we won’t have to live with that any more with the natural refuge,” he says.

Simple Solution Cuts Expenses

David Pearson, who farms with his father, Bobby, near Levelland, Texas, planted approximately 3,000 acres of cotton in 2008, most of it containing the Bollgard II trait.

“The biggest plus of not having to plant a structured non-Bt cotton refuge is the simplicity,” he explains. “It takes considerable time to plan and plant an IRM refuge, and we’re now happy to sidestep those hassles with the natural refuge. It should cut our expenses, our labor costs and the number of trips we make across the field. The natural refuge is a good deal for us.”

Patrick Johnson, a cotton producer in Tunica, Miss., is also a seed producer and, for that reason, even more grateful that a structured non-Bt cotton refuge will no longer be necessary when planting Bollgard II cotton.

“Because of the purity and segregation issues associated with growing seed, we have to clean our pickers, buggies and modules every time we move to a new cotton variety,” Johnson observes. “Not having to plant a separate cotton variety or varieties for our refuge will make it easier for us.”

Increase In Yields

Johnson also notes that an overall increase in cotton yields across his farms is possible, due to not suffering from the yield losses sometimes experienced on refuge acres.

“It could be pretty frustrating watching the cotton insects move into our refuge acres and not being able to spray them,” he says.

While the natural refuge for Bollgard II cotton is allowed in most of the Cotton Belt, there are some geographical areas where it cannot be used, including selected counties in Texas, south of Highway 60 in Florida, and in areas where the pink bollworm is a pest, including California, Arizona and New Mexico. The pink bollworm has no natural hosts besides cotton.

Monsanto contributed information for this article.


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