RIPLEY, Tenn. (DTN) -- Tennessee farmer Franklin Carmack planted 100 acres of ThryvOn cotton this year as part of Bayer's Ground Breakers Field Trials Program. The biotech trait that targets multiple tarnished plant bugs and thrips species performed so well the grower intends to plant more of it next year.
Other farmers will have that opportunity as well. Bayer plans a stewarded, targeted launch of ThryvOn cotton in 2023 that exceeds the 67,000 acres in this year's field trials. The announcement occurred at a cotton media event at Bayer's Scott Learning Center in Scott, Mississippi, on Oct. 4.
"The ThryvOn technology worked great," said Carmack, who was getting ready for his third day of cotton harvest on Oct. 5 near Ripley. "We sprayed (ThryvOn cotton) less and the yields look good. We haven't ginned any cotton yet, but as long as ThryvOn grades well and the quality is as good as the non-ThryvOn, we would take as much ThryvOn seed as they (Bayer) will allow us to have."
Carmack estimates the 1,300 acres of non-ThryvOn cotton he grew this year will average about 1,300 to 1,400 pounds per acre, which is normal for the farm. However, Carmack expects ThryvOn cotton will be about 200 pounds per acre better due to less damage from insects that the trait is engineered to control. He hopes to earn an average of $1.10 per pound for the 2022 cotton crop.
Besides a bump in yield, Carmack said he didn't have to spray ThryvOn acres for thrips early in the growing season unlike his non-ThryvOn varieties that needed two insecticide applications for the pests. He also sprayed non-ThryvOn acres four times for plant bugs while ThryvOn acres only needed two. Altogether, Carmack estimates a $60-per-acre savings on insecticide applications on ThryvOn acres.
"You're looking at $260 more per acre (revenue potential) for ThryvOn (compared to non-ThryvOn acres) when you add everything together. Plus, there's less wear and tear on equipment," he said, noting that's a promising difference.
However, Carmack knows this is only one year. He also noted ThryvOn seed cost the same this year as his Bayer non-Bt seed at about $100 per acre since he was part of the company's field trails. He expects ThryvOn seed to fetch a premium in the future.
"Hopefully it's only 10% to 15% more, so farmers can get a benefit too," Carmack said. "I know they (Bayer) have a lot of time and research in this trait, and they need to be rewarded for it."
Bayer was hopeful a full commercial launch of ThryvOn could occur in 2023. The trait has full regulatory approval in the United States and single-trait approval for all markets, said Travis Coffman, Bayer cotton and traits systems manager. But the company is still waiting for commercial stack approvals from Mexico and South Korea.
Mexico was the fifth-largest market for U.S. cotton in sales in 2021 at $407 million, according to USDA data. South Korea ranked ninth in export sales at $153 million.
Since ThryvOn is stacked with Bollgard 3 and XtendFlex Technology, a stewarded launch to keep the ThryvOn out of the two markets is a must.
"What that means is we're going to be increasing our seed volumes (and acres) in 2023 ... to give growers greater access to the technology. Those volumes are still being determined, and we should have details out in the next couple of months," Coffman said.
"We're working to provide growers access to ThryvOn technology while ensuring that we meet our Excellence Through Stewardship commitments," Coffman continued.
ThryvOn pricing for 2023 is being determined as well, he added. Research data and value-added benefits are being studied as part of the process. "We're going to price to value and make sure farmers benefit," Coffman said.
He expects pricing and stewardship guidelines to be available by the end of the year.
Tarnished plant bugs and thrips are two of the biggest revenue thieves for cotton growers. According to the 2021 Cotton Crop Loss Report -- www.biochemistry.msstate.edu/resources/pdf/2021/table28.pdf -- the insects cost growers a combined $351 million in yield losses and insecticide application expenses.
Thrips feast on young cotton plants with piercing-sucking mouthparts. They attack leaves, leaf buds and very small squares, which can damage plants and cause loss of the plant terminal. Plant bugs are also piercing-sucking insects that feed on squares, flowers and young bolls. Injured squares and bolls will often shed from the plant, leading to reduced yield potential.
The ThryvOn cotton Bt trait, MON 88702, expresses the protein mCry51a2. It protects young cotton plants from thrips species through oviposition reduction or deterring the pests from laying eggs on plants and reproducing. For plant bugs, the protein causes mortality in small nymphs, but not 100% mortality. It can reduce future generations.
Tim Dabbert, Bayer's cotton/sorghum trait and systems manager, said the trait reduces thrips pressure and damage so well that controlling them with additional insecticides is no longer needed. Multiple university entomologists confirmed that claim. For plant bugs, Dabbert said the trait may allow farmers, especially in heavy plant bug regions such as the Mississippi Delta, to eliminate one or two insecticide applications and provide more leeway for timely applications.
"From a thrips perspective ... we've seen a drastic reduction in the number of insects as well as damage," Dabbert said. "The plant bug story is a little bit different. There's good mortality with small nymphs ... but it's not a silver bullet. We are still going to have to scout and spray."
THRYVON TRIAL RESULTS
2022 Bayer Ground Breakers Field Trial data is not available yet since harvest is ongoing. Here's 2021 results from 4,600 acres of ThryvOn cotton from 87 participating growers:
-- 72% reduction of thrips species on ThryvOn cotton compared to non-Thryvon checks.
-- 73% reduction of average season-long injury to ThryvOn cotton from thrips compared to non-ThryvOn checks.
-- 44% season-average reduction of tarnished plant bug small nymphs in ThryvOn cotton compared to non-ThryvOn checks.
-- 48% season-average reduction of tarnished plant bug large nymphs in ThryvOn cotton compared to non-ThryvOn checks.
-- 17% season-average reduction of adult tarnished plant bugs in ThryvOn cotton compared to non-ThryvOn checks.
-- 6.1% increase in square retention in ThryvOn cotton compared to non-ThryvOn checks.
-- ThryvOn cotton yields averaged 48 pounds per acre more than non-ThryvOn checks. In key plant bug areas, ThryvOn cotton yielded up to 108 pounds per acre better than non-ThryvOn checks.
Scott Graham, an Auburn University Extension entomologist, said Bayer's 2021 ThryvOn field trial results are in line with data he's gathered. He's conducted research on the biotech trait starting in 2016 as a doctoral student at the University of Tennessee.
Here are two examples of Graham's published works on ThryvOn:
"From my observations, which are mirrored by my colleagues across the Cotton Belt, I don't anticipate farmers needing to spray for thrips on ThryvOn cotton. It's very effective," Graham said. "For plant bugs, it's more of a mixed bag. You may have opportunities so save on sprays.
"ThryvOn is a much-needed tool that is being added to our tool belt for pest management," he added.
Thrips and plant bugs building resistance to the trait isn't a concern, Graham said, since its lethality isn't 100% and it's only in one crop. "For growers, I wouldn't worry about it at all."
Read previous DTN ThryvOn stories:
Learn more about ThryvOn cotton at https://traits.bayer.com/….
Matthew Wilde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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