Rise in insecticide use in the corn belt as biotechnology crops falter

June 4, 2015

 

"It appears that farmers have gotten part of the message: Biotechnology alone will not solve their rootworm problems. But instead of shifting away from those corn hybrids, or from corn altogether, many are doubling down on insect-fighting technology, deploying more chemical pesticides than before. Companies like or that sell soil insecticides for use in corn fields are reporting huge increases in sales: 50 or even 100 percent over the past two years.""An identical experiment in Iowa, carried out more than a year ago, found corn rootworms resistant to the Cry 3Bb gene.""Nobody knows how widely those insects have spread, but farmers aren't waiting to find out. Some are switching to other versions of biotech corn, containing anti-rootworm genes that do still work. Others are going back to pesticides.""Steiner, the Nebraska crop consultant, usually argues for another strategy: Starve the rootworms, he tells his clients. Just switch that field to another crop. "One rotation can do a lot of good," he says. "Go to beans, wheat, oats. It's the No. 1 right thing to do."Insect experts say it's also likely to work better in the long run.Meinke, who's been studying the corn rootworm for decades, tells farmers that if they plant just corn, year after year, rootworms are likely to overwhelm any weapon someday."Dan Charles, "As Biotech Seed Falters, Insecticide Use Surges In Corn Belt," 9 July 2013, NPR, 9 July 2013. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/07/09/198051447/as-biotech-seed-fa...

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