Wednesday, March 11, 2015

We Have To Be Told How To Farm

Bt corn-on-corn is not good resistance management Jacob Bunge reported in today’s Wall Street Journal that, “U.S. regulators for the first time are proposing limits on the planting of some genetically engineered corn to combat a voracious pest that has evolved to resist the bug-killing crops, a potential blow to makers of biotech seeds. “The measures proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency represent a bold step to thwart the corn rootworm, a bug that ranks among the most expensive crop threats to U.S. corn farmers.

“The plan is aimed at widely grown corn varieties sold by Monsanto Co. , the first to sell rootworm-resistant corn, and rival seed makers including DuPont Co. and Dow Chemical Co. Such corn seeds have been genetically modified to secrete proteins that are toxic to destructive insects, but safe for human consumption, helping to reduce farmers’ reliance on synthetic pesticides.”

Mr. Bunge pointed out that, “The EPA’s proposal would require seed companies to limit some Midwestern farmers’ practice of sowing fields with corn year after year in areas harboring resistant rootworms, whose cream-colored larvae gnaw on corn roots and stunt plants’ growth. The EPA is concerned that if the resistance continues, it will lead farmers to use more synthetic chemicals to thwart the bug, creating environmental risks.

“Representatives of the biotech-seed industry have criticized some parts of the proposal, which was released in January and is subject to a public-comment period until March 16, after which the EPA will finalize any new requirements. “The agency is taking a tougher stance because the industry’s efforts haven’t done enough to stem the spread of pesticide-resistant rootworms in the Midwest, officials said.” The Journal article added that, “Among its proposed changes, the EPA would require makers of rootworm-resistant corn to curb some repeated corn planting in areas badly afflicted by the pest.

Portions of Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and some surrounding states–what EPA officials called the rootworm ‘red zone’–the agency is pushing for about 35% of corn fields to be planted with another crop, such as soybeans, after two consecutive years of planting of rootworm-resistant biotech corn. Other high-risk fields should be planted with newer corn that can produce multiple types of bug-killing proteins, according to the EPA proposal.”

We have to keep being told how to farm?  Do we have enough scientific training to properly use technology without building resistance to that technology?

Resistance has been a problem for farmers since the first pesticide.  Soil erosion has been a problem since the plow.

Can't we figure out how to use these tools without laws on how to use them?  I guess we can't.

Ed Winkle


  1. Rotations are mandatory for rootworm in specific areas of France too, they even enforced them since 2008 around the international airports to limit infestations coming from freight.

    Alsace especially has it tough. When high rootworm populations are detected, a 2 km diameter red zone is delimited, where corn cannot be planted for 2 years, and a 10 km orange circle where corn cannot be planted the next year.

    Regardless of infestations, corn cannot be planted for more than 5 years in a row in any field (17% rotation minimum), and rootworm larvae insecticide spraying is mandatory starting on the second or third corn on corn year, depending on the number of rootworms counted. Following these measures, average counts of rootworms went down from 150 per trap to a couple of dozens. There's 1000 rootworm traps monitoring the whole region, 4000 in France. Yield followed suite, with 180-195 bu/a in Alsace the next years, higher than the French average.

  2. Wow, that is a lot of rules to follow! I don't know how this is going to all shake out here, Chimel.

  3. Wow, that is a lot of rules to follow! I don't know how this is going to all shake out here, Chimel.

  4. Not so many rules, but you've got to do what you've got to do to contain the spread of this pest recently arrived in France when you don't grow Bt corn. All farmers seem to be on-board and afraid to see the infestation spread, I didn't read about any complaint or street protest about it, and farmers are the first to take to the streets in France, blocking traffic with tractors, burning bales of straw, spilling milk or manure in front of the prefecture government administration buildings. Today at 1PM it's the organic farmers who'll be protesting in front of Toulouse prefecture. The government cut the subsidies to support organic farming by 25%, ironically only a few days after the Minister of agriculture sensationally said he would encourage organic farming as an answer to the challenges of climate change, most likely in preparation to the big international conference on climate change that will happen in Paris around December. It looks like the program was so successful that there was 25% more demand of subsidies than the government budgeted for, so they are just cutting subsidies by that amount instead of honoring their word and provisioning the few more million euros that were missing. There are also subsidies for converting to organics, these are maintained and not cut.

    Forgot to say the rotations around airports are every year, no corn for 2 years in a row there.
    Rotations with milo seem to help too, looks like this plant is not susceptible to the rootworm so they die off during this year of fast.