New hybrids can prevent damage from bugs, disease and herbicides.

Garst Seed Company has upped the ante in the seed trait game by being the first seed company to stack three and four traits in a single corn hybrid to give farmers more options.

The company calls its process of gene stacking, or adding genes or traits inside corn, G-Stac. It can insert genes more quickly than many competitive seed companies because of a proprietary method for inserting genes called "Wiskers," which, in turn, speeds up the time it takes to release a final product, according to Lonne Fry, area agronomist with Garst.

Multiple traits. Seven new hybrids, each containing three traits, will be available in 1999. These are 8896 BLT, 8773 BLT, 8692 BLT, 8600 BLT, 8539 BLT, 8481 BLT and 8342 GLS/Bt/IT. The BLT hybrids combine three gene traits: AgrEvo's StarLink Bt gene that kills first- and second-generation European corn borer (ECB) at a different site of action than other Bt hybrids on the market to help growers manage corn borer resistance, AgrEvo's LibertyLink (LL) gene to provide tolerance to direct applications of Liberty herbicide, and Garst's imidazolinone-tolerant (IT) gene to provide tolerance to direct applications of American Cyan-amid's Lightning herbicide.

The seventh triple-stacked hybrid, 8342 GLS/Bt/IT, combines gray leaf spot resistance, YieldGard insect protection and the IT gene.

Garst is also the first to stack four traits in the same hybrid with hybrid 8585 GLS/BLT. It combines the same traits found in the BLT hybrids, along with gray leaf spot resistance.

The benefits. Fry says Garst's trait-stacked hybrids benefit growers by addressing multiple issues in one hybrid, enhancing crop management flexibility and helping growers keep their options open.

"For example, in West Central, IL, heavy rains and an early spring this year prevented farmers from getting on their preemergent herbicides, so they had to switch to post- emergent chemicals," Fry says. "Those who didn't plant IT or LL corn were limited to Accent and Basis Gold for postemergent grass control. With BLT hybrids, growers now have two more options for post- emergent grass and broadleaf control - Lib-erty and Lightning."

The hybrids can also prevent damage caused by herbicide misapplication. According to Fry, there have been instances where growers have planted LibertyLink corn but sprayed the crop with Lightning herbicide because the two names sound similar. Because BLT hybrids protect the crop from direct application of these herbicides, they will help eliminate the confusion and error.

Company-tested. Garst has tested its triple- and quad-stacked hybrids for two to three years, depending on the hybrid. The company claimsthat the hybrids yield as high as conventional hybrids and show no yield lag because the genes are inserted only in its most current and elite hybrids.

There will be no price premium attached to these hybrids except for a $24/bag fee for the Bt technology, which Garst licenses through other providers. Although BLT hybrids contain AgrEvo's StarLink Bt gene, all of its other Bt hybrids contain Monsanto's YieldGard gene.

The StarLink Bt, which has a different site of action than other Bt technologies on the market, will be an important management tool - along with planting a refuge of non-Bt corn - to help prevent corn borers from developing resistance to Bt hybrids, Fry says.

"I see Bt technology as a test for farmers and seed companies," he says. "If we fail to manage it properly by not planting refuge acres, the EPA can take all of the Bt corn acres off the market. That could lead to restrictions of future seed traits such as corn rootworm resistance."

For more information on G-Stac hybrids, contact your local Garst sales representative or call toll-free 888/464-2778.