Pest complex costs corn growers $1.1 billion annually

As corn reaches maturity, so does the in-field damage caused by the multi-pest complex, a collection of lepidopteran corn pests that can cause significant economic losses due to their diversity, abundant numbers and the destruction they create throughout the growing season.

Syngenta Agrisure Corn Traits analysts recently undertook a comprehensive initiative to quantify the economic damage these pests can cause. Their findings indicate the six pests within the multi-pest complex can cost American corn growers more than $1.1 billion annually in lost yield and grain quality.

Control of the multi-pest complex is a necessary step to help growers produce and harvest the “perfect ear” of corn. “When grouped into the multi-pest complex, the total damage these insects cause really catches your attention,” said Bruce Battles, agronomy marketing manager at Syngenta Seeds. “We believe the multi-pest complex is currently the biggest pest issue without a full solution. We also think it’s important for growers to begin to understand their part of the $1.1 billion pest problem so they can improve their yield performance and grain quality.”

The six pests that make up the multi-pest complex — corn earworm, fall armyworm, Western bean cutworm, black cutworm, stalk borer and sugarcane borer — are unpredictable, difficult to scout and challenging to treat effectively with foliar insecticides. Damage can sometimes go unnoticed or even be misattributed to European corn borer. After harvest, the damage can continue in storage bins with development of molds such as aflatoxins and mycotoxins.

Based on Syngenta and USDA data, Syngenta analysts estimate that the pests of the multi-pest complex lead to the loss of some 238 million bushels of corn each year. In addition, the Aflatoxin Center of Excellence of the South estimates issues related to these pests create direct annual losses of more than $200 million each year.

Upon receipt of the remaining regulatory and key import market approvals, growers will have the option of planting corn seed stacked with the Agrisure Viptera trait. The Agrisure Viptera trait is a forthcoming trait from Syngenta Seeds that features Vip3A, a new mode of action that has been shown in Syngenta field trials to control pests in the multi-pest complex.

“While we’re impressed with how much the Bt trait has done to protect growers from European corn borer and move closer to producing that perfect ear of corn, we know other insects are still trying to eat away at grower profits and yields,” said Tracy Mader, Agrisure marketing manager. “We look forward to helping growers combat the expensive challenges posed by the multi-pest complex with the upcoming release of the Agrisure Viptera trait.”

The analysis quantifying multi-pest complex damage was led by Syngenta entomologists and statisticians, and was reviewed by several university entomologists during development and at the conclusion. Data sources for this research include the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2007 Census, the USDA Risk Management Agency’s internal indemnity database, the Aflatoxin Center of Excellene of the South, Syngenta data and Syngenta entomology research.

For more information on the multi-pest complex, visit