How much is refuge reduction (5% refuge) really worth?

I hear alot of excitement about refuge reduction or you may know it, SmartStax.  How much are you going to make ($) by going to the latest and greatest trait package that allows you only to have 5% refuge. Increase my yield because of less corn borer and root worm is the comment I have heard the most often.  How much more yield are we talking? Lets figure it out.

If cornborer control  gives 7 bu/ac advantage over isoline and Agrisure RW gives 3 bu/ac compared to isoline under normal rootworm control measures (rotation or insecticide) we would see a benefit to refuge reduction of approx. 10 bu/ac.  10 bu on 15% more acres (reduction from 20 % to 5%) is about 1.5 bu/ac average yield increase.  Not very much when the genetic yield increase is over 2 – 2.5 bu per year.  Just be selecting the new genetics and placing them in the right field you can easily get more than 1.5 bu/ac and should get at least 2 – 10 bu/ac.  Most growers would not even switch to a new variety if it only yields 1.5 bu/ac better in his plot.

But it will be easier to plant or more convenient.  I don’t think so. It actually will be harder to plant and track (remember record keeping requirements of stewardship). If you have an 8 row planter (remember you need 4 rows of refuge) and use the two end row units of the planter as refuge (strip design).  On a 100 acre field how many rounds do you have to plant until you will switch the boxes to all one hybrid? It is just over 5 rounds (up and back). You have to make sure that this refuge is within a 1/4 mile of the rest.  Is this easier than 21 round out of 26 rounds in the field using current refuge stewardship fo 20%?

What is your advantage to reducing your refuge?

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3 Responses

  1. What will happen to the small producers who plant less than 20 bags? Are they going to buy and plant 1/2 bag of refuge corn? No – they won’t bother.

    • This is a major concern. At NK we are concerned that if we do not keep planting a refuge and doing stewardship activities we will quickly develop resistance to these yield robbing insects. Every day we hear how weeds have developed resistance to herbicides (even Glyphosate) and as an Agronomist we know that insects can develop resistance very quickly and easily, why do we want to sabotage a stewardship program that has been successful for over 14 years?

  2. Steve Kinlin, thank you for commenting on this post and correcting me that the 5% refuge in Monsanto’s Smartstak is only two rows of corn rather than the four I had calculated. I will recalculate.

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