Monsanto is reporting excellent performance in 2008 from its stacked-trait cotton, Bollgard II® with Roundup Ready® Flex.
The stacked-trait cotton was planted on approximately 5 million acres, or more than 54 percent, of the 9.2 million acres of cotton planted in the United States in 2008. Monsanto expects plantings of Bollgard II with Roundup Ready Flex cotton to reach approximately 5.6 million acres, or 65 percent of the 8.6 million cotton acres forecast for planting in 2009.
“Despite the fact that total U.S. cotton acres have been decreasing in recent years, adoption of Bollgard II with Roundup Ready Flex cotton has been steadily growing, which is an indication of the value that cotton farmers place on this technology,” Paul Callaghan, Monsanto cotton traits marketing manager, said.
“Growers are telling us that they really appreciate the simplicity and the flexibility of the Roundup Ready Flex system,” Callaghan said. “The technology is a real time saver for them, and they are able to use that saved time to better manage their farming operations and spend more time enjoying their families and recreation.”
Roundup Ready Flex cotton has taken the pressure away for farmers to have to make their over-the-top applications of Roundup agricultural herbicides before the fifth-leaf stage of cotton – the restriction with the original Roundup Ready cotton introduced in 1997. Over-the-top herbicide applications save considerable time versus the use of much slower hooded sprayers.
“Cotton growers can now make their over-the-top herbicide applications at their convenience, up almost until harvest, and they can wait until weed stages, weather and their time availability are just right for them to make those herbicide applications,” Callaghan said. “Farmers can also reduce their trips across the field, another time savings, by tank-mixing crop production products, such as plant growth regulators, with Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides.”
Bollgard II products stood up to heavy worm pressure across the Cotton Belt in 2008, especially in parts of southern Arkansas and southern South Carolina. The culprits—tobacco budworms, cotton bollworms and fall armyworms, depending on the area.
“We got a really good chance to see just how well Bollgard II [products] perform under extremely heavy worm pressure in these areas,” Dr. Walt Mullins, Monsanto cotton traits technical manager, said. “The Bollgard II technology clearly showed superior worm control compared with other types of Bt cotton, including the original Bollgard® cotton.”
According to Mullins, worm pressure ranged from light to moderate in Texas, with bollworm, fall and beet armyworm hot spots, especially in south Texas. Worm pressure in the lower Mississippi Delta was also light to moderate, which is unusual. The exceptions were heavy bollworm pressure in parts of Mississippi and south Arkansas, and fall armyworm pressure later in the season in south Arkansas.
Worm pressure in Virginia and North Carolina was atypically light in 2008. South Carolina pressure was light in the northern part of the state and very heavy in the southern part of South Carolina, especially below the lakes. Pressure in Georgia was light to heavy depending on the area, and it was light to moderate in Alabama and Florida.
“One interesting thing we are seeing is a resurgence of tobacco budworm in 2008,” Mullins said. “We saw tobacco budworm in large numbers both in the northern Mississippi Delta and in parts of the Southeast. There was a lot of Tracer® insecticide applied to non-Bt cotton to control this pest.”
Mullins also notes that Bollgard II crops, for the most part, did not have to be sprayed with insecticide for worm control across the Cotton Belt in 2008.
Besides excellent worm control, another factor driving the adoption of Bollgard II is the technology’s natural refuge option. In most areas of the Cotton Belt, growers who plant Bollgard II cotton can rely on natural host plants and other crops to provide an Insect Resistance Management (IRM) refuge, instead of having to plant a structured non-Bt cotton refuge as was necessary with the original Bollgard cotton.
“The natural refuge option for Bollgard II [products] allow growers to save considerable time at planting by not having to plant a structured IRM (non-Bt cotton) refuge,” Mullins said. “It also means that growers can plant Bollgard II [cotton] on all their acres and realize the yield potential benefits across their entire cotton acreage.”