Triple stacks are the rage in hybrid seed corn. Does everybody need to plant them? That debate will rage until there are more sophisticated hybrids, which are already on the way. Companies intend to blow right past 4-5-6 and 7-way stacks to an 8-way stack, SmartStax, next year. Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences collaborated on that projects. Other companies are hinting that similar-type combinations may be in the offing from them as well in the future.
SmartStax will be a six-trait combination that utilizes eight genes. It's expected to debut commercially in 2010. Developers are openly talking about appealing to regulatory agencies to allow them to reduce the refuge acre requirement with these hybrids. The refuge acre system is designed as a tool to help slow down the possible development of resistance to the traits by insects. Since the new SmartStax hybrids will have two modes of action for key traits, the likelihood of resistance developing should be less, developers argue. The number tossed around in the industry is 5%- companies would like to see agencies drop refuge requirements when products such as these are planted form the current 20% in corn to 5%.
Meanwhile, even before that hybrid is available for you to consider buying, there are plenty of triple stacks out there. Many companies claim a yield advantage for triple-stacked hybrids. But Dave Nanda, who assisted with the Corn Illustrated project, and who is president of Bird Hybrids, Tiffin, Ohio, believes farmers should ask several questions before deciding if triple stacks are the seed they should be planting when the weather clears up this spring.
Number one, he says, is if the triple stack is truly higher yielding. Or has it been compared to refuge hybrids on growers' farms. Unless the refuge hybrid has the exact same genetic package except traits, then it's not a fair comparison, Nanda insists.
Second, ask if you really need all the traits, Nanda says. Many farmers in the central Corn Belt, especially the Eastern Corn Belt, believe they need the rootworm trait. When corn possesses it, and it works as it is designed, rootworm larvae nibble on roots, ingest a naturally-produced substance that harms the larvae, and they die. Any feeding damage is negligible.
Farmers in the Western Corn belt encounter more problems with European corn borer on a regular basis than farmers in the Eastern Corn Belt, Nanda observes. So it makes more sense to plant Bt cornborer hybrids there. Some companies reduce the price of the trait where the pest is less prevalent so farmers wills till buy the technology.
The biggest question, Nanda believes, is whether or not you need the ability to apply glyphosate over the top. One of the key traits in many triple-stacks, glyphsoate is still relatively costly to apply, especially with higher prices this season.
"Sometimes you'll find that due to past weed control, or due to the season, you may not need to spray an entire field with glyphosate if you used a residual herbicide early," Nanda notes. "But if you bought the triple-stack, you paid for it whether you use it or not."
He suggests that farmers consider Liberty Link technology as well. It comes along free in some hybrids, since the Liberty Link gene was used as a marker in the development of some traits. If it's free and you don't need to spray, you're not out any money, Nanda says. If you do need to spray, you can apply Ignite over the top. You can't apply glyphosate on LibertyLink corn, and vice-versa!