The big news from Monsanto and Dow Agro Sciences this spring is that their SmartStax Corn called RIB Complete by Monsanto, meaning the refuge is already blended in the bag, was approved by EPA a few weeks ago. Due to the late planting season, more farmers than might have otherwise had the opportunity are expected to plant these new hybrids. The full launch will be in 2012.
"We have all the necessary regulatory import approvals now," says Robb Fraley, a Monsanto vice-president. "Any of the RIB Complete hybrids someone plants this spring can go into regular marketing channels, and are OK for export overseas."
Pioneer has also applied for a Refuge in a bag product, but it has not been approved yet. Until it's approved, farmers can grow it if Pioneer gives them the seed as a trial, but the corn must be handled through domestic channels and can't be sold for export.
This year Monsanto has 20 hybrids ready to sell as Genuity SmartStax RIB Complete hybrids, notes Matt Kirkpatirck, Corn Products Traits Manager. For 2012, he expects to have 100 hybrids in the line-up covering a wide range of maturities.
The question is obvious- how big a deal is it to pick out a refuge hybrid to go with each of those SmartStax traited hybrids and be blended in the same bag, at 95% traited to 5% refuge? The answer would seem obvious as well- simply use the same genetics for the refuge hybrid as in the traited hybrid, only without the traits.
However, Kirkpatrick says it's not that simple. "We're looking for the best match to the traited hybrid, and there might be something that will perform better or stay healthier than the traited hybrid without the traits," he says.
Naturally, the hybrid chosen has to be about the same maturity range, and roughly the same height as the traited hybrid. What it does is create a tremendous workload for breeders in trying to match up these pairs for 2012.
"We have made a commitment to deliver the best product for the farmer, and that's what we're going to do," says Kirkpatrick, a Rushville native. "It's a more tedious process to do it this way, but we believe that it will result in a better product. There may be cases where the refuge hybrid is of the same genetics just without traits, and there will be cases when it's not. "