On their research farm near Noblesville Dow Agro-Sciences has plots of Smart Stax refuge in a bag corn. The technology is already approved, and was available in limited quantities in 2011. In fact, some growers form Illinois and Colorado who have used the technology were at a recent media event. One praised the system, saying it could mean more acres planted per 24 hour period because he no longer had to stop, figure out where refuge bags needed to go, and dump them in the planter separately.
"Even if it takes an extra half hour, that can be 15 to 20 acres that you didn't plant that hour," says Iowa farmer Mark Hanna. "This year especially that was a big deal. It's important every year."
The big point Dow AgroSciences researchers wanted to make about their new technology during the recent ag media tour was that they have carefully matched which hybrids go in as the refuge hybrid, and they have done it traited hybrid by traited hybrid.
They note that they started with focus groups, asking farmers what would be important if they mixed two hybrids together for this concept. Obviously, things like similar height, similar maturity, similar yield potential and similar ear placement rose to the top of the list. They discovered quickly that farmers didn't want to see plants here and there sticking a foot or two above the rest of the canopy. Their goal was to fine-tune their program so that they could match up hybrids so it would be very difficult to tell which plants were traited and which plants were refuge for those traits once the corn emerged.
To prove the point, researchers planted various strips of corn, they painted orange the corn that would represent the refuge under non-refuge –in-a-bag situations. With Smart Stax without refuge in a bag, only 5% of the plants were painted in one block. Where the refuge in a bag plot was planted, the 5% orange plants were scattered throughout the field.
Perhaps most striking was the refuge in a bag plot that wasn't painted at all. Officials say their goal was to see if anyone could pick out the refuge plants. Planted in late July for demonstration purposes only, the plants were about knee-high. There were no apparent differences in plant height or in nay other trait looking out over the plot.
That's the goal that they're trying to achieve, spokesmen say. They don't want people to see any difference when they look across or even walk the field. They believe matching the refuge hybrid up with the traited hybrid is a key component in making this new system work and be accepted on the farm.