Monsanto's new corn technology stopping earworms

Southern farmers are benefiting from new corn trait technology that provides a stronger defense against above-ground pests that feed on ears and can significantly reduce yield potential and damage grain quality.

More than 400 farmers across the South planted demonstration plots this season of Genuity VT Triple PRO corn, which provides the industry’s first-ever dual modes of action protecting against above-ground insects. Scheduled for a full commercial launch in 2010, this new trait technology gives farmers the broadest-spectrum insect protection against target pests, including one previously uncontrolled ear-feeding pest — corn earworm.

Many of the farmers participating in the demonstration program are seeing dramatic evidence of the technology’s value, as many regions of the South experience high earworm pressure this season. In many plots, side-by-side comparisons show minimal or no feeding on the Genuity VT Triple PRO corn ears, versus visible feeding and kernel damage on corn hybrids with first-generation insect protection, according to Steve Knodle, Monsanto Corn Traits marketing manager.

“Research shows that for every three kernels damaged per ear, farmers can lose a bushel per acre in yield,” Knodle said. “We want to help farmers protect their yield by delivering higher levels of quality kernels for them at harvest, and the dual modes of action in Genuity VT Triple PRO help do that.”

William D. Hutchison, Professor and Extension Entomologist at the University of Minnesota, monitors corn earworm flights via the PestWatch Web site, PestWatch traps are maintained by hundreds of industry volunteers, state Departments of Agriculture and Extension staff.

This season, Hutchison has observed unusually high counts of moths (100 to 300 per night), particularly in central Arkansas, Georgia, southeastern Missouri, Texas (Lubbock area) and Kansas. “The direct kernel loss can easily be nine to 12 kernels per larva, which has a major impact on yield,” he said. “The other major concern is aflatoxin that can result from ear feeding and further downgrade the yield quality.”

First, second and third generations of corn earworm can invade cornfields from spring through mid- to late September, he noted. The moths lay most of their eggs directly on corn silks or green leaf tissue near the ear. When the larvae hatch, he said, they move rapidly down the silk channel to feed on the ear tips or midsection of the ear.

“Historically, it has usually not been cost-effective for farmers to scout for earworm and pay for an insecticide treatment in field corn,” Hutchison explained. “Timing of insecticide applications is a challenge, and insecticides are too expensive to effectively control the pest in field corn. Genuity VT Triple PRO offers more effective protection than the first generation of Bt corn technology products for corn earworm.”

Bill O’Neal is seeing firsthand the benefits of Genuity VT Triple PRO in the demonstration plot on the farm he manages, Allendale Planting Company, in Shelby, Miss. “In our plot, we have not seen any earworm damage to the Genuity VT Triple PRO corn,” he said. “It is by far an improvement over other technologies. In our comparison hybrids, we are seeing some feeding and damage on the ear tips. Any damage we can prevent through new technology is certainly a benefit to yield.”

Gary Odvody of the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, said his field trials involving the new technology also have demonstrated positive performance. “Genuity VT Triple PRO offered superior technology compared with the first-generation Bt protein for protection against corn earworm and fall armyworm in my tests,” he said. “When exposed to naturally high corn ear insect populations, it not only reduced ear insect damage compared with first-generation technology, but it also had an associated lower aflatoxin content and higher yield.”

In addition to above- and below-ground insect control, Genuity VT Triple PRO also provides the Roundup Ready 2 herbicide tolerance trait.

For additional information about this technology, or Monsanto’s entire Genuity family of traits, visit

The Genuity brand family of traits supports Monsanto’s commitment to help farmers double yields by the year 2030 to meet the world’s growing food and energy needs.