For 2014 managing refuge will be as easy as ever. Every major corn seed market is offering in-bag solutions that go by a few names. Essentially a structured, or integrated refuge, seed companies are offering programs that allow you to just load and go and the bag takes care of the required refuge in the field.

In most cases the structured refuge is 5%, a move that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as companies described how including refuge in the bag would work for farmers.

Newer solutions are all single-bag offerings. "There's a lot of interest in structured refuge," says Reed Mayberry, DuPont Pioneer senior corn marketing manager. "We're moving into the Optimum AcreMax Extreme lineup for 2014 which offers two modes of action above and below ground for insect control. We were the first with an integrated solution with AcreMax 1."

Trait packages from the major providers - Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto and Syngenta - are 'siloed' in some ways for many seed companies. "We can't pull together the traits from one company and combine it with another," says Jeff Hartz, director of marketing, Wyffels Hybrids. "We can offer farmers products with the different trait packages, but our ability to mix and match is limited."

Wyffels has five full-time plant breeders working to enhance genetics in their corn lines all the time. They're also working with key trait providers to offer packages for customers. "The challenge for the customer is making sense of the choices."

That's not always the case, but it can limit choices. DuPont Pioneer has made agreements with trait providers to mix and match in its lines, which means you can find traits from Monsanto, Syngenta and Dow in single hybrids. That's not always the case. For example, companies in the Channel lineup - owned by Monsanto - will offer the Monsanto line of traits. And, as noted, you'll find Herculex traits from Dow AgroSciences are included across lines.

Independent providers like Wyffels and Beck's work with trait providers to bring packages to market - but mixing and matching is more rare. The good news is that mixing up modes of action for insect control is easier because trait packages from the different providers have different active ingredients.

Keys to success

Picking a hybrid trait package starts with understanding the problem you want to solve. If you're in an area without corn rootworm pressure, then a solid above-ground insect control package makes sense. You'll also want to consider your weed control program. Is glyphosate tolerance enough, or do need to switch to a package with glufosinate tolerance.

Dow's Kaehler points to seed sites that help producers pick the trait packages they need on their farms by traits available. "There's confusion out there," he notes. A good example is Triumph Seed, and you can check its trait tool at triumphseed.com/products/triump-technology-tool/.

Understanding the weed and insect pressures you face will help you best manage the problem. Then balance your approach with the mode of action you're using too. The chart on Page 29 shows not only what's available but the modes of action at work.