OPTIMUM ACREMAX 1 may be the proverbial silver lining in 2010 for seed company giant Pioneer Hi-Bred, a subsidiary of DuPont.

After weathering a tough 2009, and beset by the delay of its Optimum GAT technology, the company expects to introduce the first phase of its Optimum AcreMax insect protection system to corn growers this spring, upon regulatory approval.

Jerry Harrington, sales and marketing public relations manager for the company, explains that there is no impact or relationship between the two technologies: Optimum AcreMax 1 is a refuge management system in corn that uses existing and proven insect protection traits, and Optimum GAT is a transgenic trait.

“Within our corn product lineup, Pioneer expects to offer corn growers a wide range of choices in high-yielding hybrids in 2010 to match their field-by-field needs,” Harrington says. “The recent decision on the Optimum GAT traits will have no impact on that.”

Pioneer expects the new Optimum AcreMax 1 system to provide corn growers with improved productivity by increasing the number of acres they can plant to hybrids with insect protection traits.

“We have existing products and traits that corn growers know and trust that are being used with this technology,” says Bill Belzer, Pioneer senior marketing manager for corn. “We're confident in our approach and believe it will greatly simplify how a grower manages refuge into the future.”

Optimum AcreMax 1, which is based on the strength of the Herculex Xtra trait, is designed to eliminate the need to plant a separate corn rootworm refuge. Although the in-the-bag system would satisfy the corn rootworm refuge, growers would still be required to plant a corn borer refuge within half a mile of the field. In addition to belowground protection, Optimum AcreMax 1 delivers in-plant protection against aboveground pests, including corn borer, western bean cutworm and black cutworm.

All of the hybrids in the system are glyphosate- and glufosinate-tolerant and include a seed treatment that protects the seed corn from secondary belowground insect pests.

Ultimately, Belzer says, the Optimum AcreMax 1 system will enable corn growers to increase the number of acres they can plant to high-yielding hybrids with in-plant insect protection, all while satisfying their corn rootworm refuge requirements.

Beginning as soon as 2012, Pioneer expects to introduce the next generation of its integrated insect protection program — Optimum AcreMax 2. The product will combine the YieldGard corn borer gene with the Herculex family of traits to deliver two modes of action for aboveground pests. Upon approval, this addition will extend integrated refuge options for aboveground pests and allow growers to meet all of their refuge requirements in a single bag.