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2-Plants: Irrigated acreage and high yield goals likely to benefit from Bollgard II Bt cotton in the USA

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TITLE:  Irrigated acreage, high yield goals likely to benefit from BG II
SOURCE: South West Farm Press, USA, by Ron Smith
DATE:   15 Feb 2006

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Irrigated acreage, high yield goals likely to benefit from BG II

West Texas cotton farmers interested in irrigating or trying to top 600
pound per acre yield goals likely will be the early adopters of Bollgard II.

With those targets, farmers should be comfortable investing in the new
technology, says Walt Mullins, U.S. cotton technical manager for Monsanto.

Mullins, during a Southwest Farm Press interview at the recent Beltwide
Cotton Conferences in San Antonio, said Bollgard II offers "another risk
management tool" to cotton farmers. He said the new double-gene cotton
varieties also will be less vulnerable to insect resistance.

"Bollgard II contains a new gene with a different mode of action in
relation to the original gene in Bollgard," Mullins said. "It has more
activity against armyworms and loopers and expresses control at a very
high level, more than Bollgard I."

He said pests such as beet armyworms, fall armyworms and bollworms that
were not vulnerable to Bollgard I are susceptible to Bollgard II.

"West Texas farmers don't have beets every year," he said, "but when they
get them growers can spend $30 to $40 to control them and still lose
yield. With a reasonable pricing structure for West Texas, Bollgard II
makes sense, especially for irrigated acreage."

He said the new technology also controls bollworm and fall armyworm
effectively. "We might see rare cases where we need to spray once, but
with Bollgard I, under similar pressure, we would have had to spray two
to three times and with conventional cotton possibly even more than that."

He said bollworms have become a more troubling pest for West Texas cotton
farmers than the budworm, which is vulnerable to Bollgard I.

Pink bollworms are vulnerable to either BG I or BG II.

"Historically, pink bollworms have not been a big issue for most of West
Texas," Mullins said, "but they are moving north. With either of the
Bollgard products, pinkies will not be a threat."

He said some of the early generations of Bollgard II/Roundup Ready
varieties did not measure up to the yield potential of some of the elite
Bollgard lines, but this should disappear with subsequent generations
that include Roundup Ready Flex. "We understand that value is extremely
important to the grower and that they have to have varieties with yield
potential. The university official variety trials conducted in 2005
demonstrate that yields have improved with Bollgard II/Roundup Ready Flex

Mullins said the double gene structure also improves product stewardship.
"With the single gene, we had concerns with resistance. Monsanto is
committed to the two-gene product and at some point in time would like to
see it replace the single gene product. But we want to make sure that
growers have the appropriate range of agronomic characteristics in
varieties they need in these Bollgard II lines so that this conversion is
as natural as possible."

He said the two genes have different modes of action, making resistance a
more remote possibility. "We believe the frequency of resistance to both
genes in target pests is very small," he said. "Combined with an
appropriate refuge plan, we believe we'll have a sound resistance
management program."

He said the new Roundup Ready technology, Roundup Flex, will complement
Bollgard II to improve overall efficiency. "Seed companies have decided
that they will not include the Flex gene in Bollgard I varieties," he said.

Mullins said BG II technology could improve overall yield even when
insect pressure is low. "A 30 to40 pound increase in yield is all it
takes to pay for the Bollgard II technology."

He said experience in Tennessee showed that low levels of bollworm
infestations caused production losses in non-Bt cotton, even though
populations never built to treatment thresholds. Even under the lower
insect infestation environments in Tennessee, Bollgard varieties averaged
a 6percent to7 percent increase in yield over non-Bt variety yields.
"Early on we didn't think that we had a market for Bollgard in Tennessee,
but today the state is 95 percent Bt varieties"

He anticipates similar results in West Texas with Bollgard II, "with good
agronomic varieties."

He said in most cases BG II should eliminate pyrethroid use for
bollworms. Avoiding pyrethroid use in West Texas cotton, particularly
earlier in the season, will also significantly reduce aphid and/or spider
mite flare problems later in the season.


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