In 2008, corn producers will have three in-plant traits to choose from that offer built-in insect protection and herbicide tolerance, but choosing the right trait for their farm requires an understanding of the differences.
Among the stacked in-plant insect protection traits being marketed for 2008-Herculex XTRA Insect Protection, YieldGard VT Triple and Agrisure CB/LL/RW-all three provide protection against corn rootworm (CRW) and European corn borer (ECB). However, only Herculex XTRA offers added protection against western bean cutworm (WBCW), black cutworm (BCW) and fall armyworm (FAW).

Ben Kaehler, traits and germplasm licensing leader for Dow AgroSciences, says recent market research showed that many growers thought they were getting protection against WBCW and BCW from YieldGard, even though YieldGard does not offer protection against those pests.

"With all the new traits and trait combinations, it's easy to understand why growers can be confused," Kaehler says. "Growers need to understand which insects are controlled by the traits they use, so they are not disappointed if they select a trait with a lesser spectrum of control that results in insects robbing yield from them."

Kaehler also believes growers may be relying on a seed treatment to help provide protection against a pest like BCW. But relying on a seed treatment for protection may leave the grower disappointed with the results as well, Kaehler adds.

"Seed treatments are a valuable addition to corn production as they control many pests," Kaehler says. "However, there is clear evidence from university Extension and our field experience that seed treatments don't provide significant protection against black cutworm, and, of course, they provide no control of western bean cutworm."

Dow AgroSciences has developed a chart that clearly displays what insects the various in-plant traits offer protection against. (This chart, and other supporting data, is available at See the link "NEW-Recent Data" in the left-hand navigation of the site.)
With WBCW becoming a pest of economic concern throughout the western Corn Belt and into northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, and black cutworm and fall armyworm outbreaks across portions of the Corn Belt, Kaehler says growers need a complete understanding of the protection offered by traits before they select hybrids for their farm.

"If a corn producer is located in a region where western bean cutworm or black cutworm could be a problem, using an in-plant trait like Herculex in their high-yielding hybrids brings peace of mind," Kaehler says. "If growers use the YieldGard or Agrisure traits, they should scout their fields for these yield-robbing insects. The reality is growers have a lot of other tasks to complete on their farm that pushes scouting to the bottom of their to-do list, and infestations usually go unnoticed until it's too late to protect yields from being impacted."