Thousands of farmers across the country have used the National Corn Growers Associationâ€™s (NCGA) Web-based Insect Resistance Management Learning Center (IRMLC) this year to enhance their understanding of effective IRM strategies.
Since its introduction Feb. 6, the IRMLC section of the NCGA Web site has been viewed more than 2,000 times, equating to nearly 12 visits per day.
"The IRM Learning Center was the first online education tool for growers concerning IRM, and the number of visitors to the site proves there is certainly a need for such a valuable resource," says NCGA Biotech Working Group Chair Helen Inman, adding that during the key spring planting month of April, the IRMLC was visited 570 times. "Weâ€™re thrilled that so many growers have turned to the IRM Learning Center to improve their knowledge of correct IRM procedures."
The free-of-charge learning center provides a step-by-step tutorial that describes all facets of the IRM program, including refuge emplacement and other regulatory requirements. Upon satisfactory completion of the tutorial, users can print out a certificate of completion.
Inman says the learning center is quickly becoming the industry standard for IRM training. Eighteen seed companies have agreed to post links to the IRMLC on their company Web sites.
She says proper implementation of insect resistance management refuges was more important this year than ever before, as growers planted a record amount of insect-resistant Bt corn. The USDDA estimates Bt corn was planted on 27% of corn acres this year, up from 25% in 2003.
Inman says proper IRM practices are also vital because, under the Environmental Protection Agencyâ€™s (EPA) Compliance Assurance Program, growers who do not meet IRM refuge requirements may be denied access to the valuable Bt technology in the future.
"We want to ensure this technology remains available and effective for years to come," Inman says. "Thatâ€™s a big reason NCGA is making every effort to provide growers with the right information about Bt corn and insect resistance."
A 2003 survey by the EPA showed 92% of farmers who planted Bt corn met regulatory requirements for IRM refuge size, while 93% also met the requirement for refuge distance â€“ up from 87 and 82%, respectively, in 2000. While the survey results are encouraging, Inman says growers should strive for an even higher compliance rate.
"Weâ€™re almost there, but we still need to reach out to the producers out there who are noncompliant," she says. "We encourage them to join the thousands of growers who have completed the IRM Learning Center program and improved their stewardship of Bt technology."
The IRMLC was developed by NCGA and the Agricultural Biotechnology Stewardship Committee, a coalition of biotech providers and seed companies. To access the IRMLC, click here.