EPA OKs Natural Refuge for BG II Cotton

Ruling means most cotton growers won't be required to plant a non-Bt refuge for Bollgard II.

Published on: Jun 4, 2007

Environmental Protection Agency approval of a natural refuge option for Bollgard II "simplifies farmer pest control program," says Walt Mullins, Monsanto technology development manager.

The ruling means growers in most of the Cotton Belt won't be required to plant a non-Bt refuge for Bollgard II cotton and can rely on non-cotton crops and other plants to provide the refuge. A structured non-Bt cotton refuge continues to be required in Bollgard cotton in all states and for Bollgard II cotton in certain counties of Texas and Florida where pink bollworm is a significant pest.

"This is great news for U.S. cotton producers in eligible regions who choose to plant Bollgard II cotton," Mullins says. "It allows (growers) to simplify their pest control program by using advanced cotton technology with the built-in IRM mechanism of two effective Bt genes."

The eligible regions for the "natural refuge option," applies to Bollgard II cotton planted in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, and the Texas counties of Brewster, Crane, Crockett, Culberson, El Paso, Jeff Davis, Loving, Pecos, Presidio, Reeves, Terrell, Val Verde, Ward and Winkler.

The natural refuge does not apply to the Texas Panhandle counties of Carson, Dallam, Hansford, Hartley, Hutchinson, Lipscomb, Moore, Ochiltree, Roberts and Sherman and areas in Florida south of Highway 60. In these areas, the 5% unsprayed refuge or the 20% non-Bt refuge still applies. In these areas unaffected by the natural refuge ruling, the pink bollworm is a significant pest. Monsanto's data supplied to the EPA supported a natural refuge option in areas where cotton bollworm and tobacco budworm are the primary worm pests for cotton, says Andrew Burchett, a Monsanto spokesman.

Bollgard II is the second generation of insect-protected cotton developed by Monsanto. Two genes in Bollgard II cotton provide dual control of bollworm and tobacco budworm. "It decreased the chances of resistance to the point where there are enough susceptible insects to supply a natural refuge," Burchett says.

Monsanto's research in Bollgard II fields found a significant number of worm pest insects trapped and analyzed weren't coming from cotton fields. "The power of the data supported a natural refuge," Burchett says.