More than nine out of 10 growers are aware of and effectively complying with Insect Resistance Management requirements as mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency according to findings based on 2005 on-farm assessments along with an independent survey conducted on behalf of the Agriculture Biotechnology Stewardship Technical Committee.
The annual Bt corn borer IRM telephone survey, managed by an independent third party, shows farmers are being good stewards and implementing refuge plans. In the 2005 survey 92% of U.S. Bt corn growers met or exceeded the minimum recommended refuge size. This level of adherence with the requirements is consistent with past results of 91% in 2004 and 86% in 2003. In a separate program of on-farm visits, more than 94% of producers assessed were found to be meeting the refuge requirements. Both large and small acreage growers are meeting refuge management requirements at similar levels.
The EPA-required Bt corn refuge obligates farmers to plant at least 20% refuge - that is, corn that does not contain a Bt gene for controlling corn borers. In certain cotton areas of the South, growers are required to plant at least a 50% refuge.
All areas of the country require that the refuge is planted within one-half mile of the Bt corn. In 2005 96% of growers adhered to this refuge distance requirement, an improvement over past years of 93% in 2004 and 89% in 2003.
Growers reported the National Corn Growers Association and seed companies marketing Bt hybrids are the leading sources for IRM information. Most growers surveyed recall receiving an average of four pieces of IRM literature and more than three-fourths of those surveyed noted having had an individual conversation with a seed company representative or seed dealer regarding these requirements.
U.S. Bt corn adopters have voiced their commitment to manage Bt crop technologies as 92% were clearly aware of the IRM and refuge requirements, and support them as an important part of preserving Bt technology for the future.
An element of the on-farm assessment program that reinforces how seriously Bt technology providers regard resistance management is the potential penalties for non-compliance. Failure to properly plant and manage refuges in two crop seasons can lead to a grower's inability to access technology for use on their farm in the third year.
Farmers visited in 2004 and found to be out of compliance came back into compliance in 2005, and have maintained access to corn borer protected Bt corn for this growing season.
For the small set of growers found to be non-compliant in 2005, Bt providers responded in accordance with the uniform industry standards developed to bring growers back into compliance. These standards outlined in the CAP include letters and additional IRM educational materials sent to growers as well as on-farm compliance assessments. Growers who repeatedly fail to adhere to IRM requirements risk losing access to the technology.
NCGA urges all producers to comply with IRM requirements in 2006. With the planting season starting across the United States, it is critical that growers and seed providers continue to focus on the effective implementation of IRM requirements.
For assistance in managing Bt corn and refuge areas, growers are encouraged to seek information online at www.ncga.com/biotechnology/insectMgmtPlan/index.asp, or from their seed representative.