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Bt soybeans announced by Dow

Last week Dow AgroSciences announced the development of soybeans containing two different Bt genes for control of lepidopteran pests, basically caterpillars of various moth species.

The company’s insect-resistant soybean trait is the first to be submitted for approvals that expresses two Bt proteins. This will provide broader in-plant protection of lepidopteran pests, as well as improve sustainability of the technology compared to other soybean technologies being advanced in the market with only one Bt protein. Extensive research has shown that the company’s trait provides broad in-plant protection against lepidopteran pests such as fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), soybean looper (Pseudoplusia includens), velvetbean caterpillar (Anticarsia gemmatalis), soybean podworm (Helicoverpa gelotopoeon), and tobacco budworm (Heliothis virescens) as well as Rachiplusia nu.

“Our insect-resistant soybean trait is a major advancement of outstanding technology that will help farmers who struggle more every season to control significant lepidopteran pests,” said Rolando Meninato, global leader, Seeds Traits, and Oils, Dow AgroSciences. “By developing this new technology in combination with the Enlist Weed Control System, we will be able to provide a significant, multi-trait product with the broadest pest control package that enables both insect and weed control so soybeans can deliver their yield potential.”

While there has been some buzz about this new insect resistant technology, there is likely little application for its use in Ohio, and most of the U.S., according to Ohio State University entomologists Ron Hammond and Andy Michel.

“These new varieties are intended for South America, mainly Argentina and Brazil, where they have significant problems with various caterpillars. The likelihood of making them available anytime soon to growers in the U.S. is very low for various reasons, mainly revolving around resistance concerns to the Bt gene from caterpillars that also feed on cotton and the need to maintain natural refuges (which non-Bt soybeans provide),” they wrote in the CORN Newsletter. “Second, we do not have any significant caterpillar pests in Ohio, with the only one of concern being green cloverworms. Although they can sometimes add to defoliation along with other non-caterpillar pests such as Japanese beetle and bean leaf beetle, green cloverworm is a very infrequent pest. Third, as we know from planting transgenic corn, Bt products are unique in what they control, and these new Bt soybeans would offer no control of our beetle or stink bug pests, nor the soybean aphid. What will happen with Bt soybeans in the future is anybody’s guess, but we do know that companies are working on varieties that will offer control of the other insect pests that do occur in Ohio.”

Dow does intend for the trait to be initially targeted for commercialization in South America. Brazil represents the largest opportunity where insect pressure results in significant yield loss every year. Argentina soybean farmers also face significant impact to their soybean yields due to insects. The company plans to broadly license the technology to regional seed companies in these countries to provide wide access for farmers.

Upon regulatory approvals, the soybean insect-resistant trait will be offered as a stack with the company’s innovative Enlistsoybean traits in elite and high-yielding varieties. This integrated solution will provide much-needed insect control as well as tolerance to multiple herbicides for improved weed management, allowing crops to maximize yield in a highly efficient and sustainable manner.

Pending regulatory approvals, the trait package is expected to be available in elite and high- yielding soybean varieties for the Brazilian and Argentinean markets in the next three to five years.

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