THE NEW Agrisure Viptera trait featuring a new mode of action for lepidopteran corn pest control is waiting for final regulatory approval. Syngenta Seeds hopes to use the Viptera trait in hybrids for 2010.

Syngenta Seeds,/a> President David Morgan says Viptera could provide control of a number of pests other than European corn borers or Southwestern corn borers that individually are not very problematic, but collectively cause more than $1 billion in damage a year. Viptera's range of control includes corn earworms, black cutworms, Western bean cutworms, fall armyworms, sugarcane borers and common stalk borers, none of which are well controlled by currently available Bt traits.

Most estimates put the yield loss to corn earworms nationwide at 2.5%, Morgan says. But Syngenta Seeds estimates that the yield loss south of I-70 is significantly higher — 10 to 15% per year. One of the reasons farmers in the South plant so much earlier than in the Midwest is to try to avoid a second or third generation of corn earworms.

The trait that became Viptera was originally developed for cotton. Syngenta used the name VipCot (for vegetable insecticidal protein) when it was working with Delta and Pine Land Company to put the trait in its cottonseed varieties. That work stopped, however, when Monsanto purchased Delta and Pine Land. Syngenta, meanwhile, had learned that VipCot had application in other crops. The company also has been attempting to license the technology to other cottonseed companies.