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April 21, 2003

Hoosier farmers' resistance varies on biotech crops, analyst says

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Indiana farmers aren't sold on biotech corn but they're banking heavily on genetically modified soybeans.

For the second straight year, Hoosier producers intend to plant just 13 percent of their corn acres to varieties that resist herbicides, insects or both, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On the flip side, farmers expect to plant more than 90 percent of their total soybean acres to genetically modified (GM) varieties.

Farmers are reluctant to plant corn containing the insect-killing bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) gene and other resistance traits because there is no economic motivation to do so, said Corinne Alexander, a grain marketing specialist in Purdue University's Department of Agricultural Economics.

"Indiana has very low European corn borer pressure, so the benefits of planting Bt corn are much lower here and don't justify the increase in cost," Alexander said. "The primary cost increase is in the cost of the seed. The seed is substantially more expensive for genetically modified corn seed. It can be a difference of as much as $6 to $8 an acre."

A recent USDA survey indicated that 38 percent of the corn acres in the 11 leading corn-producing states will be planted to GM varieties this year.

Farmers in the Western Corn Belt will plant the greatest percentage of acreage to GM corn. South Dakota farmers told USDA they'll plant biotech varieties on 72 percent of their corn acres. Nebraska is second highest, at 55 percent.

"The eastern end of the Corn Belt has some of the lowest rates of planting genetically modified corn," Alexander said. "In Indiana, farmers are only intending to plant about 13 percent of the acreage to GM corn, and in Ohio it's only 10 percent. Nationally, the average is about 38 percent of acreage planted to GM corn.

"As you move further west in the Corn Belt, the planting intentions for GM corn are much higher. In those areas the planting intentions reflect a 6 to 9 percent increase in the acreage dedicated to genetically modified corn."

Farmers in Illinois are expected to plant 29 percent of their corn acres to biotech varieties. Missouri farmers say 40 percent of their corn will be GM, with 47 percent in Iowa.

A different picture emerges with soybeans, both in Indiana and across the nation's midsection, Alexander said. An overwhelming majority of farmers indicate that they'll plant soybean seed resistant to Roundup herbicide.

"Indiana is clearly committed to planting Roundup Ready soybeans," Alexander said. "The planting intentions for this coming year indicate that 91 percent of the acreage will be planted to genetically modified soybeans. That's up from 83 percent last year. That represents some of the highest density of genetically modified soybeans in the entire country.

"Overall, Roundup Ready soybeans seem to be the most popular of the genetically modified crops. Nationwide, the acreage is increasing from 75 percent to 80 percent this year."

Farmers who choose to stick with conventional corn and soybeans can get higher prices for their crops than those who grow biotech varieties, Alexander said.

"There's a current premium of about 10 cents a bushel for non-GM corn being offered by processing plants that are producing products for food-grade use or for export to Europe," she said. "For farmers who are choosing to plant non-GM soybeans, there are current premiums of 30 to 40 cents a bushel. There are some soybean varieties receiving premiums of up to 85 cents a bushel, though for those varieties it tends to be a compensation for yield drag."

Indiana farmers are expected to plant 5.7 million acres of corn and 5.6 million acres of soybeans – including both conventional and genetically modified varieties – this spring. The numbers would represent a 6 percent increase in corn acres and 3 percent decrease in soybean acres from 2002.

Writer: Steve Leer, (765) 494-8415, sleer@purdue.edu

Source: Corinne Alexander, (765) 494-4249, cealexan@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, bforbes@aes.purdue.edu; http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/AgComm/public/agnews/

Related Web site:

USDA Prospective Plantings Report


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