If you're planting Bollgard cotton this season, remember to leave room for the refuge and ask for help if you don't fully understand the options, says a North Carolina State University entomologist.

The reasons for planting a refuge? The refuge options are part of the licensing agreement to grow Bt varieties, an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requirement, a hedge against insects developing resistance to the varieties and just down right good business sense, says North Carolina State University Entomologist John van Duyn.

Some of the options may require the planning help of a consultant or other ag advisor.

“Planting a refuge is an EPA requirement,” van Duyn says. “We've done a poor job in the last few years of planting refuges, particularly last year. It's against the law not to plant a refuge in Bt cotton. The EPA and others have the power to penalize. Monsanto could be forced to deny the technology to farmers who are abusing the agreement.”

Additionally, a refuge will help minimize the chance of insects developing resistance to Bt cotton.

He encourages cotton farmers to consider refuge requirements as a part of insect-control costs.

“They are just like the costs of running a Hi-Boy, purchasing insecticide, hiring labor or whatever,” van Duyn says. “They are part of the pest-control costs. In the long-run, these costs are cost effective.”

For 2001, cotton farmers can choose from a variety of options to meet the refuge requirements on Bollgard cotton.

The first is a 20 percent sprayed option. In a hundred-acre field, that means at least 20 acres has to be non-Bt cotton. The Bollgard fields and the refuge fields must be planted within one mile of each other, van Duyn says.

The percentage of the unsprayed refuge has increased from four percent to five percent. “Five percent of the refuge must be a minimum of 150-feet wide and must be within one-half mile of each other,” van Duyn says. In this unsprayed refuge, you can't spray for bollworms.

“This is why I think a consultant could step in and arrange the agreement.”

For example, two small refuge fields have to be within a half mile of whatever Bt field they're associated with. Irregular fields have to average 150 feet wide.

A five percent imbedding option lends itself to growers who plan on planting large acreages of Bt cotton, van Duyn says. “Imbedded means that it's put in the middle of the field. Traditionally, that would mean in the same field as Bt cotton. It must be part of the field or for groups of very small fields, a field unit.

The refuge in the imbedded field must be at least 150-feet wide. The non-Bt refuge can be sprayed for bollworms, but only if the entire field, including the Bt cotton, is sprayed, van Duyn says.

The community refuge concept allows growers to work together to meet the requirements. “Or it could be done where several growers are working together on a whole-farm basis,” van Duyn says. “It could be a portion where people have farms close together.

The community refuge concept would require an agreement amongst the farmers participating and an agreement between those farmers and Monsanto. Who's responsible? Everyone in the agreement is equally responsible; however, Monsanto is insisting there be a coordinator for the group, van Duyn says. “This is why I think a consultant could step in and arrange the agreement.”