Seed Companies Pursue ‘Reduced Refuge’ Corn Market


After the big seed companies like Pioneer Hi-Bred and Monsanto take down their tents and displays at the Farm Progress Show, their marketing and agronomy people will fan out throughout the Corn Belt to begin a hotly contested battle for the “reduced refuge” corn seed market.

Monsanto — through its DeKalb, Kruger’s, Holden’s, and Fontanelle subsidiaries — was in the market last growing season with its new SmartStax corn.

The product allowed farmers to reduce the government-required refuge for pests from the 20 percent of a field’s acreage that has been standard since the dawn of the biotech era in the mid-1990s, to 5 percent.

Pioneer is taking the battle a step forward with its new Acremax, a “refuge in a bag” seed that will allow farmers to do away with refuge entirely for rootworm. They’ll still need a 20 percent refuge for corn borers, but since borers can fly the refuge can be up to one-half mile away.

The idea is to enable farmers to break what is an irritating necessity to climb down from the tractor at planting time and change from biotech to non-biotech seeds for certain parts of their fields. Refuges are required so that pests can migrate to the refuges rather than mutate into new forms that resist insecticides and pest-resistance genetic traits in seeds.

“This gets to the heart of the argument about why we need to have refuges and protect against new strains of pests,” says Brent Wilson, who oversees sales for Pioneer in Iowa and Missouri.

While the advertising hits the airwaves, Web sites and printed pages beginning later this week, the big question will be what resistance farmers may put up to spending more money for the next generation of seeds at a time when corn yields are at an all-time high.

Monsanto hopes to have its own refuge in a bag ready for next year’s seed-selling season, pending federal regulatory approval.

Monsanto learned a hard lesson last year when it put SmartStax on the market priced about $60 per bag above its previous best lines of hybrid seed.

That put the prices of some bags at more than $400.

Sales were disappointing, and Monsanto was obliged to cut prices on SmartStax.

“We got some tough feedback from growers,” says Monsanto vice president Robert Fraley. “SmartStax was the largest single launch in seed history. It didn’t quite turn out the way we’d hoped.”

But Fraley added: “We aren’t giving up. SmartStax is a tremendous product. The price premiums will be lower this year, and we will put more agronomists on the ground to help growers.”

Pioneer lost its longtime market share lead in corn sales to Monsanto when that company took the lead in biotech in the 1990s. Pioneer officials didn’t crow about Monsanto’s problems last spring but carefully took note of what happened in the marketplace.

“Our premium pricing for Acremax definitely will be small, probably in the single digits,” says Pioneer vice president Bill Belzer, who has overseen the development of Acremax.

In the past two years, Pioneer has reversed a decade of declining market share, and at the end of the last sales season, the Johnston company was able to boast that it had moved to within 2 percentage points of Monsanto’s industry-leading 36 percent share.

“This is an exciting time for seed sales,” Belzer says. “Every acre is up for grabs every year.”


Leave a Reply

Seed/Biotech Stories

Soybean field
Crop InputsIncotec Invests In North America
October 25, 2016
Leading seed enhancement company Incotec, part of Croda, has announced an investment in their North America business. The total investment of Read More
Nufarm Seed Treatment lab formulations
Seed/BiotechNew Lab, Company Realignment Strengthen Nufarm’s Position To Serve Seed Treatment Market
October 6, 2016
As part of its “One Nufarm” strategy, Nufarm is realigning and uniting resources to further enhance the focus on its Read More
Soybean Field
Seed/BiotechBayer, West Central Distribution Introduce Fungicde Seed Treatment For Soybeans
October 6, 2016
Bayer and West Central Distribution are introducing a new combination fungicide treatment for soybean plants, Redigo 480 + Trilex, to Read More
Syngenta Seedcare Institute
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Opens New North America Seedcare Institute In Stanton, MN
September 23, 2016
Syngenta unveiled its new Seedcare Institute in Stanton, MN, during a recent grand opening celebration. More than 150 industry leaders, Read More
Trending Articles
Matt Hopkins15 Twitter Accounts Every Ag Professional Must Follow
October 13, 2016
What do singer Katy Perry and the President of the United States have in common? They are two of the Read More
AGCO RG700 cab
OpinionRoadblocks To Precision Ag Innovation
October 5, 2016
On August 29, I got to preside over the PrecisionAg Innovation Series event, “Game-Changing Advances in Precision Farming Technology,” developed Read More
J.C. Ramsdell containment system
EquipmentClear Opportunity In The Tank Market
October 4, 2016
Crop prices may be down, but steel prices are too — and that’s good news for retailers looking to add some Read More
WinField booth Farm Progress
Special ReportsTalking Weed Management Strategies At Farm Progress 2016
October 2, 2016
The annual Farm Progress Show — this year staged in Boone, IA — is always a great place to catch Read More
Corn Field
Eric SfiligojFacing Ag Industry Challenges
September 26, 2016
At the 2016 annual Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) meeting in September, a pair of crop protection company representatives discussed Read More
Bayer Monsanto
Crop InputsBayer-Monsanto Mega-Merger: 6 Things You Need To Know
September 14, 2016
Mega mergers have become almost routine in the agricultural industry. Right on the heels of Monday’s news that fertilizer giants Potash Read More
Latest News
AGCO RG700 at the 2015 National Farm Machinery Show
EquipmentAGCO Parts Rolls Out No-Interest, No-Payments Offer Via…
October 26, 2016
AGCO Corp. is now offering an innovative financing solution on qualifying Parts and Service transactions. Now through December 31, 2016, Read More
Soybean field
Crop InputsIncotec Invests In North America
October 25, 2016
Leading seed enhancement company Incotec, part of Croda, has announced an investment in their North America business. The total investment of Read More
Patriot 25th anniversary
SprayersCase IH Celebrates 25 Years Of Patriot Sprayers At Bens…
October 24, 2016
Case IH executives, employees and special guests celebrated 25 years of production of Case IH Patriot sprayers in a special Read More
4r Nutrient stewardship
StewardshipNominations For The 4R Advocate Program Due October 31
October 24, 2016
Nominations for the 4R Advocate program are due to The Fertilizer Institute by October 31, 2016. The program recognizes agricultural Read More
Corn close up
Eric SfiligojProtecting Agriculture’s Ability To Feed The World
October 24, 2016
The rate of change coming to agriculture is growing, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This Read More
Student Young Worker CHS
CropLife 100CHS Supports #FirstJob Compact
October 24, 2016
CHS joins the White House and many of the country’s largest employers in signing a new initiative centered on helping Read More
Kennebec Grain terminal
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Kennebec Facility Loads First Rail Cars
October 21, 2016
In a season of firsts for Wheat Growers’ Kennebec Grain Terminal, the first 115-car unit train was loaded with soybeans Read More
ManagementThe Latest Dow-DuPont Rumor, Product of the Year Voting…
October 20, 2016
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj shares a new rumor about the Dow-DuPont merger and updates on two CropLife-driven programs, the CropLife Read More
Soybean Closeup
FungicidesFMC Begins Registration Process For New Fungicide Activ…
October 19, 2016
FMC Agricultural Solutions has begun the joint U.S. EPA and Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency registration process for bixafen, a new Read More
Soil Young Corn
Industry NewsAgribusiness Search Firm Appoints New Managing Partner
October 18, 2016
Morris Bixby Group, a leading agribusiness search firm providing the highest quality professional recruiting and career advancement services since 2000, Read More
Wheat Field North Dakota
FertilizerUnited Suppliers Acquires Kansas Fertilizer Business
October 17, 2016
United Suppliers, Inc. has purchased the assets of Evans Enterprises, LLC, an ammonium chloride fertilizer business based in Olathe, KS. Read More
Corn Field
Industry NewsFMC Launches New Operations In Argentina, Exits Joint V…
October 17, 2016
FMC Corp. has exited its joint venture with Ruralco Soluciones S.A. FMC has launched new commercial operations, FMC Quimica S.A., Read More
Dow AgroSciences
InsecticidesRenewed Registration Issued For Products Containing Sul…
October 17, 2016
On October 14, 2016, the U.S. EPA re-established the registration of products containing sulfoxaflor (Isoclast Active), including Transform WG, Closer Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Whys Of Agriculture
October 17, 2016
During 2016, there have been myriad challenges facing the whole agricultural industry. Such wide ranging issues as water protection, sustainable Read More
Young Corn Field
FertilizerImproved Phosphorus Management Essential To Feeding Wor…
October 14, 2016
With a global population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, improved management of key essential nutrients such as Read More
ManagementHarvest and Crop Price Updates; EPA and Crop Protection…
October 13, 2016
Glyphosate and atrazine get public comment support from ARA as each is reviewed by EPA, and the latest on the Read More
Matt Hopkins15 Twitter Accounts Every Ag Professional Must Follow
October 13, 2016
What do singer Katy Perry and the President of the United States have in common? They are two of the Read More
Corn Field
Industry NewsArysta LifeScience Adds Two Key Account Managers
October 13, 2016
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the addition of two key account managers: Doug Hoberty and Rob Wier. Hoberty and Read More