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SmartStax® Pro

Feb 01, 2022

By Jeff Blauwet, CFE Technical Agronomist

Mother Nature is ever evolving and no matter what we do to combat everyday agronomic issues she will evolve against our solutions. Many thought with the advent of Roundup Ready® crops that weed control would become much easier AND cheaper. That seemed true for about 3-4 years until our main nemesis waterhemp started to evolve resistance and then it wasn’t so easy anymore. We continue this battle today (winning some and losing some). The same goes for the CRW (corn rootworm) traits. When first introduced they seemed bullet-proof and were great tools thus minimizing the need for insecticide boxes on the planters for a good number of years. Mother Nature strikes again with evolved resistance. Now guys wish we had boxes on the planters again for granular insecticide.

We must continue to innovate and the next technology to assist in the insect battle is the newest trait introduced for corn rootworm control in Bayer’s SmartStax® Pro. This is innovative in that this is a completely new mode of action added to the current BT proteins used which is quite important in the battle for fighting resistance. This new trait is NOT a BT protein which all prior rootworm traits are. That is why once resistance is showing up in on BT trait, the others (being only slightly different) don’t hold out much longer. This new trait is a RiboNucleic Acid interference type. In layman’s terms the difference is the BT proteins when eaten destroyed the gut of the rootworm thus killing it. The RNAi method basically disrupts the rootworm in that basically when eaten the internal message to eat is stopped so it starves to death. This should be quite effective being a new strategy stacked with the current proteins.

Keep in mind this is just a tool NOT a silver bullet. It will be effective, but we can’t allow it to be the only strategy used in heavier pressure situations. If you traveled across Iowa much this summer, you noticed a lot of lodged corn not just around our area. Most of those fields, like here, were corn on corn fields that had excessive rootworm feeding. This is due to the Western Corn Rootworm feeding which is the target pest. They may not be as susceptible to the BT traits as before, but we also had a tremendous amount of pressure. Remember as noted earlier they must eat some roots to get the lethal dose of protein. The pressures we had meant in some cases even if there is no resistance, they did enough damage to allow the lodging of the corn before they eat enough to die. The very dry conditions slowed root recovery as well. Our rootworm beetle trapping locally showed in some cases up to 15X the threshold for treatment. All this to say we need to consider all the tools we have and not rely on one going forward to steward the tools for longer usefulness.

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