New, But Surely Mighty
The Agrisure RW trait delivered high yields in their debut year, according to Syngenta Seeds.
Almost a quarter of all U.S. corn was planted with a biotech trait for rootworm control in 2007–more than double the previous year. By all accounts, the newest trait for rootworm control — the Agrisure RW trait from Syngenta — exceeded grower expectations in a year that brought the second-highest yields on record.
"Grower feedback on Agrisure RW hybrids has been overwhelmingly positive," according to Von Kaster, entomologist with Syngenta Seeds. "It’s a significant achievement when you consider that the major corn-producing states in 2007 faced pockets of summer drought, late-season wind, rain storms, and even some flooding."
A surge in corn acres and the anticipation of new technology encouraged brisk sales of introductory quantities of single and stacked hybrids with the Agrisure RW trait in 2007. Increased market supplies are available for 2008 planting.
Jon Reimer of Lexington, IL, says he has heavy rootworm pressure on his farm. Comparing the Agrisure RW trait to a competing rootworm trait, he found that Agrisure RW hybrids outyielded the competition by 20 bushels per acre (bu/A). "It exceeded my expectations," says Reimer. "On more than 100 acres of corn, the hybrids with the Agrisure RW trait averaged 215 bu/A."
Nearby in Kankakee, IL, Jeff O’Connor found Agrisure RW hybrids helpful in corn-on-corn. "We have been battling rootworm for a long time," he says. At harvest, his plot yielded an average of 204 bu/A.
"The genetics that are coming out with the Agrisure RW trait are so much better than the ones I have seen in the past," says O’Connor. "I will be using a lot more Agrisure RW hybrids just based on what I saw on area farms and what I’ve seen from third-party and university field trials."
In head-to-head genetic comparisons of corn hybrids with and without the Agrisure RW trait, Syngenta field trials from 2005-07 demonstrate a 28 bu/A yield advantage from Agrisure RW in heavy rootworm pressure situations and a 56 bu/A yield advantage from Agrisure RW in very heavy rootworm pressure situations.
"For years, we farmed a straight corn-soybean rotation and rootworm just wasn’t a factor in this area," says Ron Thyen of Hayti, South Dakota. "Most of us didn’t even have insecticide boxes on our planters. But in just the last few years, we’ve started seeing rootworm feeding and yield loss in rotated corn because of extended diapause."
After planting 250 acres to corn hybrids with the Agrisure RW trait, Thyen found that "seed traits providing rootworm protection have added an extra 15 to 20 bushels per acre in places."
In addition to rootworm control, growers are also noticing that rootworm corn hybrids produce stronger root systems to keep their corn standing tall.
In northeastern Iowa, Dick Hanson planted 120 of his corn acres to modern hybrids with the Agrisure RW trait. "Our biggest challenge this year was from heavy winds," he says. "They came through and knocked down corn that had weaker root systems, but our fields planted with Agrisure RW hybrids stood tall. We harvested an average of 172 bushels per acre from those fields."
A seed dealer as well, Hanson says his customers also have noticed the trait’s superior performance. After a night of rough winds, Hanson says, "I had one customer call and say, ‘It’s standing like soldiers out here.’"
Adds Syngenta’s Kaster: "With corn increasingly in demand as a source for food, feed, and fuel, the success of genetic traits such as the Agrisure RW trait will be key in managing uncertain growing conditions in the future."
In addition to innovative new stacks with the Agrisure RW trait, Syngenta plans to introduce a new biotech trait, anticipated to be available for the 2010 growing season, that also is designed to protect corn from yield-reducing cutworms, earworms and armyworms. Further, the company expects to introduce corn hybrids with enhanced ability to optimize available water.