Poorer yields/profitability with Bollgard II (21/2/2008)

NOTE: There's some interesting points in the article below. Seems Monsanto is choosing not to pursue re-registration in 2009 of its Bollgard (single gene) Bt cotton because of insect resistance fears. After that only stacked gene (Bollgard 2) varieties of Bt cotton will be available. But these cost more and don't yield so well - to such an extent that there's a warning it could cost cotton growers in the state of Georgia an extra $60-100 million a year, causing 'unprecedented profitability hardship' to cotton producers.

On a separate note, the recent evidence that bollworms are becoming resistant to Bt cotton in some parts of the US is being challenged by Arkansas entomologist, Randy Luttrell, according to another recent article. Luttrell's main reason for this is interesting: 'From the start, Bt cotton (Monsanto's Bollgard varieties) really didn't provide control of bollworms, and it was clear from the beginning that there were insects that survived,' he said. It seems this was apparent even in early field trials: 'We saw that effect several years before Bt cotton was commercially introduced.' Curious then how Monsanto ever came to market Bt cotton as an effective means of controlling the bollworm!!


Cotton variety loss may have major impact here
Staff Reports
The Moultrie Observer, Feb. 9 2008

MOULTRIE - It might be described as a severe kick on the shin for Colquitt County's cotton farmers.

On Monday, University of Georgia Extension agents will hold a meeting at the Colquitt County Ag Complex beginning at 7 p.m. to discuss Bollgard cotton's exit from the market a discontinuance that could leave growers at a severe disadvantage to make a profit in these times of higher and higher input costs, according to farm analysts.

By 2011, cotton production in Georgia will become seriously challenged. Once the ability to plant variety DP 555BR is over, Georgia will most likely be planting soybeans or some other row crop, UGA Extension Agent Scott Brown said Friday, unlesss a new competitive variety is released or cotton prices rise significantly.

At Monday's meeting, Dave Rhylander, Monsanto marketing experet, will be on hand to discuss Monsanto's position on this matter.

In Jan. 2007, it was announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would not allow Monsanto to reregister its Bollgard gene technology in 2009. This in effect would eliminate all currently existing Bollgard varieties for planting in 2010.

In Jan. 2008, however, the Extension service learned that the registration cancellation was not being dictated by EPA but that Monsanto had chosen not to pursue reregistration in 2009 because of insect resistance fears, said Brown. In either case, the Bollgard varieties will be lost after 2009.

Apparently the fears are that the genetically engineered product could cause greater stamina in insects or basically the creation of a 'super bug.'

Monsanto has stated that in the absence of the registration that EPA would allow seed companies to sell existing stocks of seed through Sept. 30, 2009 and that these seed could be planted in 2010 but would become illegal for planting in 2011. Producers would have to take possession of such seed by the September deadline and store them for 2010 planting. It is not clear at this time when the seed or technology would have to be paid for, Brown said.

DP 555BR is and has been since 2004 the number one planted cotton variety in Georgia, currently representing about 83.6 percent of the state acreage. This is due to its adaptability and versatility to perform on a wide range of soil types, under diverse environmental conditions in a broad planting window under both irrigated and dryland conditions, Brown said. The loss of this variety through the pending expiration of Bollgard single gene technology in 2009 will cause unprecedented profitability hardship on the cotton producers of Georgia, he said.

In both UGA formal cotton variety trials and on-farm studies conducted in Georgia this variety has no currently available equal, Brown said. Given almost any extreme, 555 has allowed most producers to dramatically increase their farm yields over the past few years. Given good management this yield increase probably falls from 100 to 200 pounds per acre, he said. In fact, many producers report much higher yield increase on their farms. In the cotton market environment of the present and past several years this increased yield has produced much of, if not all, the profit realized by Georgia producers.

Phillip Roberts, UGA Extension Cotton Entomologist has said that without question no Bollgard II variety has the yield potential or stability of 555. Based on a compilation of data from the UGA Late-Maturity Variety Performance trials from 2004-07, Brown has determined that the loss of 555 will reduce the production value of Georgia cotton by a minimum of $100 per acre. Add in the additional cost of Bollgard II and RR Flex technology and growers should expect at least a reduced value of $113 per acre for producers in the absence of 555. Roberts has estimated Georgia producers could easily forfeit $60 million dollars in income in a single year and realistically could well approach $100 million should 555 disappear without an equivalent replacement variety. Currently, that replacement doesn't exist, Brown said.

Varieties currently available in the Phytogen lines, particularly 480 WR, appear to offer the best production opportunity in the absence of 555. Phytogen cotton varieties contain the Bt gene commercially known as Widestrike. This technology belongs to Dow AgroSciences and thus the technology fee is paid to Dow and not to Monsanto.

Further if growers lose the Bollgard technology, PHY 480 and perhaps other Phytogen lines will be the only Bt variety available with the Roundup Ready option. All others will be RR Flex, Brown said. This would make the Phytogen option the least expensive in terms of technology fees.


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