Woke up to this on NPR this morning: As Biotech Seed Falters, Insecticide Use Surges In Corn Belt : The Salt : NPR
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.
This is a return to the old days, before biotech seeds came along, when farmers relied heavily on pesticides. For Dan Steiner, an independent crop consultant in northeastern Nebraska, it brings back bad memories. "We used to get sick [from the chemicals]," he says. "We'd dig [in the soil] to see how the corn's coming along, and we didn't use the gloves or anything, and we'd kind of puke in the middle of the day.
If the rootworm-fighting genes in the corn are working well, no larvae should emerge.
But some have.
But some have.
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 number one right thing to do."
The problem, Meinke says, is that farmers are thinking about the money they can make today. "I think economics are driving everything," he says. "Corn prices have been so high the last three years, everybody is trying to protect every kernel. People are just really going for it right now, to be as profitable as they can."