PMN Crop News Homepage   

Posted 15 October 2009. PMN Crop News.

Genuity SmartStax Trial Plots Demonstrate Effective Defense Against Corn Earworm

Source: Monsanto Press Release.

St. Louis, Missouri (October 6, 2009)--Test plots of Monsanto’s new all-in-one corn trait, Genuity™ SmartStax™, are showing good success in protecting against a pest that, until now, farmers have been largely defenseless to effectively control – corn earworm.


While corn earworm pressure has been light to moderate in much of the Midwest this season, there have been some pockets of heavier pressure, most notably in the western Corn Belt. In this geography, Genuity™ SmartStax™ has demonstrated superior protection against this pest, which can reduce yields and grain quality by feeding on corn ears.

Scheduled for introduction in 2010 on 3 million to 4 million acres, Genuity™ SmartStax™ will provide the industry’s broadest spectrum of above- and below-ground insect control, including earworm protection, as well as two herbicide-tolerance traits for improved weed control.

Trial plots across the Midwest this season involve comparisons of Genuity™ SmartStax™ to corn hybrids without in-plant earworm protection. Monsanto agronomist Troy Roebke has observed severe earworm pressure in his trial plot near Haven, Kan., in the eastern part of the state.

“We have seen extensive damage to ears and kernels in unprotected corn hybrids, including ears with up to 40 to 50 kernels missing.” said Roebke. “The corn ear damage also permits entry of the pathogens that carry corn ear diseases, and we have seen a high rate of disease in the damaged ears. In contrast, the Genuity™ SmartStax™ ears are full and clean. Based on visual observation, the insect-control is tremendous.”

Monsanto agronomist Roger Olson has seen similar results in the trial plot he is managing in Camden Point, Mo. “When we checked for corn earworm feeding damage, the difference in the technologies was dramatic, despite only moderate pressure,” said Olson. “There was little to no insect-feeding damage on the corn kernels. I was able to show the results of our trials to some area farmers, and they were amazed about the insect control delivered by Genuity™ SmartStax™. They see the value in terms of putting additional dollars in their pockets.”

Chism Craig, Monsanto Technology Development Representative, noted that when corn is planted late, as was the case this year in parts of the Corn Belt, it is more vulnerable to earworm migration from the South. “This just goes to show that earworm can be a problem, especially with late planting,” said Craig, who observed Genuity™ SmartStax™ withstanding heavy pressure in a trial plot managed by Iowa State University in Sutherland, Iowa, located in the northwest part of the state.

Corn Earworm Historically “Ignored”

Prior to this new technology, farmers have not had an effective defense against corn earworm. “Historically, we have ignored corn earworm because there has been no economic way to protect against it,” said Dr. Bob Wright, Research and Extension Entomologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “It is an insect we have not controlled at all due to the cost of using foliar insecticides and the difficulty in properly timing applications. By the time farmers see injury on their corn ears, it was too late to control.

“Certainly in some years, there is fairly-defined corn earworm damage,” Wright added. “The benefit of Genuity™ SmartStax™ is that it will provide broad-spectrum control against a wide range of insects.” Monsanto’s Olson also noted that scouting for corn earworm is extremely difficult.

“You have to peel the corn husk back. It’s a slow process and by the time you find evidence of the pest, the damage is done,” he explained. “Until now, farmers have more or less lived with the yield loss that corn earworm can cause.”

Farmers who plant Genuity™ SmartStax™ in 2010 will also benefit from a significantly reduced refuge requirement.

Multiple modes of insect control will support a reduction in the typical Corn Belt farm refuge from 20 percent to 5 percent, enabling growers to reduce their risk and increase their whole farm yield potential.

Mimi Ricketts