First it was just an idea. Then they were hybrids the public could best see at the Farm Progress Show, growing at first under experimental use permits. Now with full EPA approval, Smart Stax hybrids will be available to plant in limited quantities in 2010.
DeKalb recently issued a press release stating that the first Smart Stax hybrids have been shelled, processed and bags are now rolling off of the assembly lines at various plants. DeKalb has a seed processing facility in Remington, Ind. It's not immediately clear if Smart Stax hybrids are processed there this fall or not.
What it clear is that the Monsanto-owned company is set to market them. Smart Stax were developed through an agreement between Monsanto and Dow AgroSicences. The hybrids contain multiple modes of action for various pests, and contain the Herculex gene that was not available before in Monsanto hybrids.
Estimates are that there will be enough seed to plant 2 million acres in the U.S. with Smart Stax hybrids next spring. The hybrids available range from 83-day to 112-dya maturity levels.
One farmer who's also a DeKalb dealer says he will plant them on some of his own acres this coming spring. The current list price is around or above $400 per bag. It's believed farmers are paying around $350 per bag, according to this dealer.
Bringing a new product to market requires timing. The seed can't be grown without the approval of regulatory agencies. Those hurdles were cleared earlier for Smart Stax. EPA also has announced that it will drop refuge requirements for Smart Stax hybrids from the normal 20% to 5%. That's apparently based on the fact that the new hybrids sold as Smart Stax hybrids have multiple modes of action against key insect pests. That should make development of resistant insects to the traits harder and more unlikely to develop.
The new Smart Stax hybrids carry protection against corn earworm. They also protect against western bean cutworm, a pest moving eastward, especially in northern counties. Until this year, it was not considered a major pest in Indiana. However, Purdue University entomologists have now confirmed that western bean cutworm was found in more than 15 counties in Indiana, all in the northern third of the state, but covering the state from west to east.
Herculex hybrids weren't affected by western bean cutworm, but triple-stack hybrids without the Herculex trait were. Damage was devastating because the insects opened up multiple wound sites in each ear, leaving easy entrances for fungal pathogens that caused ear rots, and water that caused sprouting and discoloration of kernels. Smart Stax will protect against this insect.