Rootworm-fighting genes cleared for Pioneer corn stack

Pioneer Hi-Bred has picked up federal clearance for next year’s expansion to the insect-fighting Optimum AcreMax corn line it plans to launch this spring, by adding rootworm protection to the package.

The DuPont-owned seed and biotech firm’s Canadian arm said Wednesday it will introduce what it’s dubbed the Optimum AcreMax XTreme corn product line for the 2013 growing season.

"Optimum AcreMax XTreme products incorporate above-and below-ground insect protection with required refuge, maximizing productivity and yields for corn growers with these needs," Ian Grant, the company’s Canadian president, said in a release.

Ninety-five per cent of the corn seed in any given bag of the glyphosate-tolerant Optimum AcreMax line, announced last summer and due for release this spring, is a Pioneer hybrid with Herculex 1 insect protection genetics, plus Monsanto’s YieldGard corn borer protection genetics.

The other five per cent is a similar non-Bt hybrid corn to serve as the product’s integrated corn borer refuge. A refuge is a plant stand that’s meant to help to prevent insect populations from developing resistance to the corn’s borer-fighting Bt gene.

The Herculex 1 gene is meant to protect against European corn borer, southwestern corn borer, black cutworm, fall armyworm, western bean cutworm, lesser corn stalk borer, southern corn stalk borer and sugarcane borer, and to suppress corn earworm.

A "wide scale" of maturities in the Optimum AcreMax product line is to be available this year, covering most corn-growing regions across Eastern Canada, Pioneer said.

"Enhanced resistance"

By comparison, when released in 2013, the Optimum AcreMax XTreme line is to include Herculex XTRA, a genetic package containing both Herculex 1 and rootworm-fighting Herculex RW genes.

Herculex RW, marketed by Dow AgroSciences and Pioneer, is billed as providing "enhanced resistance" against western corn rootworm, northern corn rootworm and Mexican corn rootworm.

The Optimum AcreMax XTreme line is also to include the AgriSure RW trait, developed by Syngenta for control of northern, western and Mexican corn rootworms.

Five per cent of the seed in an Optimum AcreMax XTreme bag will be a similar non-Bt, herbicide-tolerant hybrid for integrated refuge. The Optimum AcreMax XTreme products will also offer "built-in" glyphosate and Liberty herbicide resistance, Pioneer said.

The refuge-in-a-bag seed combination in both Optimum AcreMax and Optimum AcreMax XTreme products will be in full compliance with Canadian Food Inspection Agency rules on refuge, the company noted.

Chatham, Ont.-based Pioneer said Wednesday it will "strategically plant" Optimum AcreMax XTreme product research trials across a "wide geographic region" for farmers to assess the products firsthand ahead of the 2013 release.

While CFIA has approved Optimum AcreMax XTreme products for the 2013 launch, the products’ registration documents remain under review at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Pioneer said it expects a decision from the EPA in time for 2013 spring planting in corn-growing states.

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