With a good chunk of refuge-in-a-bag trait packages approved early this year, seed companies now are gearing up for what promises to be one of the most anticipated, and most hyped, ag product rollouts in decades.

With the EPA approval this April, and additional approvals expected late this year, seed companies will have in their portfolios the single-bag combination of refuge and traited seed that producers have been anticipating. In its simplest form, a refuge-in-a-bag product combines the EPA-mandated refuge with insect-resistant trait packages in one seed bag. It eliminates the need to plant a separate refuge block that has been critical in ensuring the long-term health of the technology.

“Refuge in a bag is the ultimate in simplicity,” says Bill Belzer, senior marketing manager, North American corn, for Pioneer. “Producers can place in-plant insect protection on former refuge acres, allowing them the opportunity to have more productivity on their acres while maintaining the durability of the traits.”

The single-bag solutions for 2012 combine 95% traited seed with an in-bag mix of 5% non-insect-traited seed. This single-bag solution has been shown to meet the necessary requirements of a refuge program.

Each of the major trait providers is anticipating full rollout of its refuge products by spring, with products tailored to meet the needs of producers in differing geographies with varying pest control needs.

Syngenta

With Syngenta’s Agrisure Viptera trait launch in 2010, the company laid the groundwork for its refuge-in-a-bag products, called Agrisure E-Z Refuge. Agrisure Viptera was the company’s new mode of action for lepidopteran control and was integrated into nearly 20% of Syngenta’s corn portfolio.

“Today, Syngenta is fully traited with our own trait portfolio for lepidopteran and coleopteran insect control,” says Grant Ozipko, traits marketing manager for Syngenta. “This portfolio is our foundation in which we are building our refuge reduction strategy.”

Syngenta will have products with dual modes of action for above- and belowground pests, called Agrisure 3122 E-Z Refuge and Agrisure Viptera 3220 E-Z Refuge. “The dual aboveground is intended for geographies with low or no rootworm pressure, and this product will have both a 5% structured refuge and a blended refuge pending final EPA approval,” Ozipko says.

Agrisure 3122 E-Z Refuge is for areas with moderate to high corn rootworm pressure, as well as corn borer and broad lepidopteran pressure. Its partner is Agrisure Viptera 3220 E-Z Refuge, which is intended for non-rootworm geographies.

“Our intentions are, pending approval, to convert our seed portfolio to these offerings as soon as possible,” Ozipko says. “We anticipate having a good supply available for our customers.”

Ozipko anticipates interest, and adoption, of refuge products to be swift. “There is much more interest in adopting this new refuge strategy,” he says. “Producers are familiar with the concept of insect control traits, they understand that it will make compliance easier, and it will help them be more productive. The big driver is convenience.” These products will initially be available from Garst, Golden Harvest, and NK and, in the future, from more than 125 local and independently owned seed companies that license Syngenta technology.

Dow AgroSciences

The first Dow AgroSciences refuge-in-a-bag product, called Refuge Advanced powered by SmartStax, was planted on a limited number of acres in 2011, following EPA approval in early April. “We did get a bit of Refuge Advanced placed this year, and we are rapidly building our supplies for a full launch in 2012 across our product portfolio,” says Steve Thompson, who heads global seeds and traits research and development for Dow AgroSciences. SmartStax is a combination of above- and belowground insect control traits as well as herbicide tolerence traits. It combines Dow AgroSciences’ Herculex I insect protection and Monsanto’s VTPro, as well as Monsanto’s YieldGard VT Rootworm/RR2 technology and Dow AgroSciences’ Herculex RW insect protection technology. It also uses the Roundup Ready 2 technology and LibertyLink from Bayer CropScience.

Refuge Advanced will be offered only through Dow AgroSciences seed brands, including Mycogen Seeds, Brodbeck Seeds, Dairyland Seed, Pfister Seeds, Prairie Brand, Renze Seeds, and Triumph Seed.

Casey Onstot, traits marketing manager for Dow AgroSciences, says this year’s Refuge Advancd seed was planted in several different states so producers will be able to review results. “It’s a technology that really works, and producers are excited that it will make refuge compliance much easier because it’s compliance in a single bag,” he says.

Monsanto

Also building on the SmartStax technology is Monsanto’s single-bag refuge solution. Called Genuity SmartStax RIB Complete, it offers above- and belowground insect protection in a single-bag refuge product. The company also will offer Genuity VT Double Pro pending regulatory approval, which is a blended refuge product for aboveground insect protection, says Matt Kirkpatrick, corn traits manager for Monsanto.

Genuity SmartStax RIB complete is a blend that contains 95% SmartStax seed and 5% non-insect-traited corn seed. Genuity VT Double Pro provides dual modes of action against aboveground insect pests. It will be targeted for areas with low corn rootworm protection. 

Monsanto corn seed brands and licensees in the Corn Belt that are expected to have Genuity SmartStax RIB Complete product available in 2011 include national brands Dekalb and Channel; regional brands Fontanelle, Gold Country Seed, Heritage, Hubner Seed, Jung, Kruger, Lewis, Rea, Specialty, Stewart, Stone Seed Group and Trelay Seeds; and also licensees of Monsanto’s seed technology.

Product supply was limited this year, but full-scale introduction is expected in 2012. Targeted areas for the RIB complete product include areas in the 90- to 105-day corn maturity range, including parts of Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and southern Michigan. VT Double Pro will be marketed toward the northern and southern geographies. Kirkpatrick says southern cotton areas are still required to plant a 20% corn refuge, so these products will not be marketed there.

Monsanto plans to convert 100% of its brands from SmartStax with structured refuge to Genuity SmartStax RIB Complete in the Corn Belt, Kirkpatrick says. “Producers are already familiar with the technology, so we expect adoption to be quick,” he says. “We will convert our portfolio quickly as well.”

Pioneer

Pioneer unveiled its first single-bag refuge product for the 2011 planting season, Optimum AcreMax1, and it was planted on nearly 4 million acres.

The next generation of Pioneer products will offer both aboveground, and above- and belowground insect protection in single-bag solutions. Optimum AcreMax will be for aboveground insect protection, and Optimum AcreMax Xtra will combine both above- and belowground insect control. “The primary areas with more rootworm pressure — eastern Nebraska, southern Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Indiana — will be primary areas where Optimum AcreMax Xtra products will be used,” Belzer says. “For producers who do not need rootworm protection, they can use Optimum AcreMax for all their aboveground insect control needs.”

Belzer is optimistic that both products will have a commercial rollout in 2012, pending final EPA approval. He says, “Given that the EPA has looked very favorable to single-bag refuge solutions, we feel good about the prospects of offering these products to growers in 2012.”