> -------------------------- GENET-news ---------------------------
> TITLE: Transgenic Crops in Indiana: Short-term issues for
> SOURCE: Purdue University, USA, by R. L. (Bob) Nielsen
> Originally published in the Chat 'n Chew Cafe, February
> DATE: February 2000
> ----------------- archive: http://www.gene.ch/ ------------------
> Dear GENET-news reader,
> everybody who is interested in profound and non-industry studies
> on Bt-corn yields - both in bushel and dollar - should check the
> web pages mentioned by Bob Nielsen in his article reproduced
> below. To see the three figures, check the above given web page.
> Hartmut Meyer
> Transgenic Crops in Indiana: Short-term issues for farmers
> What's in a Name?
> The phrase "genetically modified organism" and its acronym "GMO",
> as they are being used in debates throughout the world, refer
> primarily to those crop varieties that contain genes physically
> transferred from another species. Such crop varieties are more
> accurately described as being "transgenic" and will be referred
> to as such in this short article.
> Transgenics as Agronomic Inputs for Indiana Farmers.
> First of all, letšs recognize that insect-resistant or herbicide
> tolerant varieties are NOT CRITICAL for the successful production
> of corn and soybean in Indiana! In other words, growing non
> transgenics will not result in economic ruin for most Indiana
> Secondly, you do NOT need a contract to grow non-transgenic crops
> if you are simply growing for the marketplace. In other words,
> growing non-transgenics will not automatically require efforts to
> segregate and certify non-transgenic status.
> However, if you want to aim for a non-transgenic market premium,
> you should arrange for a contract or agreement with the grain
> buyer to guarantee that your non-transgenic grain has a home this
> fall. Also, recognize that fulfilling such contracts may require
> you to certify that the grain you harvest and deliver is non
> transgenic. The ramification of this is that producing certified
> non-transgenic crops is not cost-free!
> The Indiana Crop Improvement Association
> (ICIA, http://www.indianacrop.org/) will be offering a
> certification service for non-transgenic corn hybrids in 2000.
> The ICIA certification guidelines for 2000 corn production
> - Records and/or confirmation of the non-transgenic status of the
> seed source.
> - Land requirements or restrictions on previous crop.
> - Some minimum isolation distance from the nearest transgenic
> corn field.
> - Field inspections by ICIA staff during the growing season.
> - Field grain sample inspections by ICIA staff.
> For more information on ICIAšs certification service, contact
> them by phone at (765) 523-2535 or by email at
> firstname.lastname@example.org .
> Should You Grow Transgenics or Not?
> Indiana growers must determine the balance between the agronomic
> costs, agronomic benefits and market uncertainties of producing
> transgenic crop varieties in 2000. Two general examples of this
> balancing act are:
> 1. High cost + little benefit + uncertain cash grain market
> = substantial economic risk
> 2. High cost + some benefit + feed own livestock
> = little economic risk
> The cost of the technology is simple to figure, it is simply the
> "technology fee" added to the seed cost by the seed company.
> Determining the agronomic benefit of the technology is more
> difficult to ascertain. Commonly available sources of information
> about these benefits include magazine or TV marketing pieces,
> sales pitches by company sales representatives, and testimonials
> by folks who have used the technology in the past. All of these
> sources should be taken with the proverbial "grain of salt".
> What farmers should strive to obtain are actual performance data
> comparing the transgenic varieties of interest with alternative
> non-transgenic varieties. Ideally, these data should be
> summarized from trials conducted over many locations and/or
> In my opinion, the best way to use such data sets is to compare
> the top-yielding transgenic varieties in a trial with the top
> yielding non-transgenic varieties in the same trial. Comparisons
> to "normal" counterparts or to "top-selling" competitors are not
> necessarily "fair" comparisons because these varieties are not
> always the "latest and greatest" varieties. This fact is
> important because you need to determine whether the transgenic
> variety in question yields as good or better than the best
> available variety in todayšs marketplace.
> Example of Bt Corn
> These hybrids are resistant to European corn borer (ECB), and
> southwestern corn borer found in the extreme southern counties of
> Indiana, by virtue of the transfer of a gene from a soil
> bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, that codes for the production
> of a protein that is toxic to such insects. The Bt trait, by
> itself, does not increase yield of corn. Rather, it is an
> "insurance" trait that confers protection from the pest when it
> is present in the field. In years when the pest is present in
> subeconomic numbers, the trait offers little payback to the
> grower. Based on the low historical frequencies and severities of
> ECB outbreaks in Indiana over the past 20 years, it is difficult
> to conclude that Bt corn is economical for the average Indiana
> corn field considering the higher cost of the seed relative to
> non-Bt hybrids. For details supporting this statement, see Purdue
> Extension publication ID-219, The Economics of Bt Corn: Adoption
> If you follow my advice and compare the best yielding Bt hybrids
> with the best yielding non-Bt hybrids grown in the same trials,
> you will often discover little difference in yields when ECB
> pressure is minor. Figure 1 below (check SOURCE web page)
> illustrates the average yields of the top five yielding Bt and
> top five yielding non-Bt hybrids summarized from each testing
> region of the 1999 Purdue Corn Performance Trials (http:/
> www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/variety.htm). In this "best versus the
> best" comparison, one is hard-pressed to conclude that the Bt
> trait offered any yield enhancement in a year with subeconomic
> ECB pressure. Similar comparisons of the "best versus the best"
> from university trials in
> - Ohio (http://ohioline.ag.ohio-state.edu/~perf/index.html),
> - Illinois (http://www.cropsci.uiuc.edu/vt/) and
> - Missouri (http://agebb.missouri.edu/cropperf/index.htm)
> in 1999 result in the same conclusion that the Bt trait, in
> and of itself, does not result in increased yield.
> These comparisons should not be construed to mean that the Bt
> trait has no value for Indiana corn growers. Indeed, such an
> "insurance" trait can be positioned within your planting date
> schedule to maximize its opportunity to defend against ECB
> outbreaks. Primarily, this means considering the use of Bt
> hybrids for those "out of whack" planting dates, because such
> plantings will likely suffer more ECB damage. Extremely early
> corn plantings are often more "desirable" to first generation ECB
> moths, while extremely late plantings or late maturing hybrids
> are often more "desirable" to second generation or later ECB
> Example of Roundup-Ready Soybean.
> These soybean varieties are tolerant to the broad spectrum
> herbicide glyphosate (aka RoundupŽ). The tolerance results from
> the transfer of a gene from a soil bacterium (Agrobacterium sp.)
> that codes for an enzyme, usually inhibited by glyphosate, that
> is critical for the production of three aromatic amino acids
> without which plant death occurs. A number of advantages can be
> listed for the Roundup-Ready (aka RR) soybean technology,
> - Good weed control
> - Potentially lower herbicide cost
> - More flexibility in the timing of herbicide applications
> - Less opportunity for herbicidal crop injury
> - Less management effort on the part of the grower
> However, some agronomic challenges to the economic adoption of
> the technology also exist, including:
> Proper timing of herbicide application to best balance the
> opportunity for maximum season-long weed control against the
> necessity to control weeds before they have the opportunity to
> suppress crop yield. Purdue weed scientists recommend applying
> the herbicide no later than four weeks after the crop emergence
> to best minimize the potential for yield suppression by the weeds
> before they are killed. Evidence exists that the Roundup-Ready
> soybean technology is often associated with lower yield
> potentials. Indeed, data from university variety trials in 1998
> (Figure 2, check SOURCE web page) indicated that the best
> yielding RR soy varieties yielded about four bushels less per
> acre than the best yielding non-RR varieties in the same trials.
> The yield difference was less in 1999 university trials (Figure
> 3, check SOURCE web page), but still averaged 2 bushels less per
> Bottom Line:
> 1.The "GMO" debate will likely continue into the near future (12
> to 18 months) and will consequently fuel the uncertainty in the
> grain markets for the acceptance of such products.
> 2.The currently available transgenic hybrids and varieties are
> not critical for the agronomic success of most Indiana corn/soy
> 3.Consequently, a farmeršs choice on whether to grow transgenic
> hybrids or varieties depends primarily on his/her perception of
> the market uncertainties for the coming crop year and the
> availability of good-yielding non-transgenic hybrids or
> For other information about corn, take a look at the Corn Growers
> Guidebook on the World Wide Web at http://www.kingcorn.org
> It is the policy of the Purdue Agronomy Department that all
> persons shall have equal opportunity and access to its programs
> and facilities without regard to race, color, sex, religion,
> national origin, age, or disability. Purdue University is an
> Affirmative Action employer. This material may be available in
> alternative formats.
> R.L. (Bob) Nielsen
> Agronomy Dept., Purdue Univ.
> West Lafayette
> IN 47907-1150
> Email address: email@example.com
> URL: http://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/corn/rln-bio.htm
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