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- SPECIAL REPORT -

Stay In Front Of The Eight Ball

A Heads-Up On Transition From
Bollgard To Bollgard II


By Carroll Smith
Senior Writer

 
Developing a plan to remove a biopesticide from the marketplace can be just as challenging as bringing one into the marketplace.

“This is the first time anyone has done this with biotech seed,” says Dave Rhylander, Monsanto’s marketing manager for the Cotton Belt. “Monsanto has submitted a plan to the EPA outlining the transition from Bollgard to Bollgard II, but we may not have an answer from the agency until Aug. 9.”

In the meantime, however, the company wants to communicate pertinent points included in the plan so cotton farmers will have some idea of what to expect. Bollgard, the biopesticide, is regulated by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). According to this law, a product must be sold and distributed by its final registration date, which, for Bollgard, is Sept. 30, 2009.

Obviously, this regulation creates several issues:

• Farmers usually don’t have money to buy seed in September.

• There is no storage at the farm level to adequately store much seed from September to the next cotton-growing season.

• This contradicts state seed laws that say the seed must be tested six months before planting. Therefore, if the seed is not planted by March 15, 2010, it has to be re-tested because it will have exceeded the certification period based on state seed laws.

Transition Plan Proposed

The transition plan that Monsanto has submitted to the EPA addresses these issues. First, the 2010 fees, including seed, trait and seed treatment prices, will be announced in July. The total amount of Bollgard seed available will be announced Aug. 20. Then, producers can place their Bollgard orders and only be invoiced $25 per bag on or before Sept. 30, 2009.

The company has to charge some amount of money for the seed so it will qualify as a purchase by Sept. 30 as specified by FIFRA regulations. Monsanto will carry the balance until late July 2010 via its program.

To alleviate the storage crunch, Monsanto will store all of the seed itself, then ship it to distributor/dealer locations direct from Monsanto by Feb. 28, 2010, based on grower orders placed by Sept. 30.

Anticipated available products will include DP 445 BG/RR, DP 444 BG/RR and DP 555 BG/RR. Allocation of the seed will be based on three years’ average data by state (2005-2008). For example, if Georgia has represented 63 percent of the Bollgard sales during that period, it will get 63 percent of the Bollgard that is available, which will then be allocated by distributor sales history in that state.

All Sales Are Final

As with any close-out deal, all Bollgard sales are final as of Sept. 30, 2009. Why?

Rhylander says, “We do not want growers ordering seed that they may not want, as this takes seed away from other growers who may want the seed for 2010 planting. Therefore, we want real orders, and it is felt that with a no return policy a grower will order closer to his actual need.

“Monsanto only wants to package and treat to true grower demand. Per EPA, no Bollgard sales will be allowed after Sept. 30, 2009.”

What if a grower plans on planting but can’t get planted due to weather?

He reiterates, “All sales are final. Catastrophe prior to or after planting is subject to later date decisions.”

What happens to inventory – partial or full bags – that a farmer may have after 2010 planting?

According to the company, any unplanted bags of Bollgard cotton seed in the spring of 2010 must be returned to Monsanto in accordance with the 2010 Monsanto Technology/Stewardship Agreement and the Technology Use Guide (TUG) Supplement for Bollgard discontinuation.

Life After Bollgard

Tommy Dollar of Bainbridge, Ga., knows cotton. He is a producer, president of two gins and the owner of a seed and chemical retail business. Dollar, like the majority of cotton producers in Georgia, is a big DP 555 BG/RR fan and certainly is not shy when it comes to heaping accolades on the variety.

“DP 555 BG/RR has been an extremely valuable tool for southwest Georgia,” he says. “Before I began planting this variety, I had never averaged over two bales an acre. With 555, we consistently averaged 2 1/2 to 3 bales, not over the whole farm, but on quite a few fields.”

To be honest, Dollar is not anxious to see 555 retired but understands that removing the single gene insect technology will reduce the risk of insect resistance showing up in dual Bt varieties. As a part of the transition process from Bollgard to Bollgard II, the Georgia producer participated in the New Plot Exposure (NPE) pre-commercial plots in 2008 by planting several different Bollgard II varieties on his farm.

He notes that DP 0935 B2RF and DP 0924 B2RF did perform as well as or better than 555 last year although the 555 suffered a lot of weather damage from Hurricane Faye. This year, Dollar once again is a NPE producer for the Class of 2010 candidates.

“We had good yields last year, but these are new varieties so we don’t have as much experience with them as we do with 555,” Dollar explains. “But, I’ve accepted that we have to change over to the dual gene technology, and I think Monsanto is doing its best to help us do this. It’s just that change sometimes makes people anxious.

“However, I think there will be a lot of benefits for cotton producers in the end,” he adds. “We need to support Monsanto in this transition, and Monsanto and Deltapine need to support us, also.”

Contact Carroll Smith at (901) 767-4020 or csmith@onegrower.com.


A ‘Step Up’ In The Right Direction

Bollgard II and Roundup Ready Flex have brought a number of improvements to the insect and weed control arena. But, Dave Albers, Monsanto’s cotton germplasm manager, is most excited about the new genetics that he sees coming in the pipeline.

“We’ve seen the first step up in yield with the Class of ’09 varieties,” he says.

In addition to data gathered from Monsanto’s 2008 Field Advancement Cotton Trials (FACT), many cotton producers actually participated in New Plot Exposure (NPE) pre-commercial plots right on their own farms. Monsanto gave them enough seed to plant 15 acres – about a module-size trial – and asked them to manage the field appropriately for their respective operations and even run the cotton through their own gins.

At the end of the season, these NPE farmers turned over their season-long data to Monsanto, then the company made the call on what the Class of ’09 varieties would be.

“Based on the data we collected from FACT and the NPEs, DP 0935 B2RF and DP 0949 B2RF had yield performance that was right there with, or, in some cases exceeded, DP 555 BG/RR,” Albers says.

With the new Class of ’10 Bollgard II varieties, Monsanto’s cotton germplasm manager says the company expects to produce not only higher yields than DP 555 BG/RR but also higher quality, which, with better staple, could mean two to three cents more in the loan value.

“Once you get past a good color grade, and the environment influences that more times than not, then staple is the biggest driver in the world market right now,” Albers notes.



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