SmartStax Pro is on the Horizon

As we look to the future of insect control in corn, we see a new event for controlling corn rootworm that will be delivered along with the SmartStax® technology that we have today. This combination will be called SmartStax® PRO. It will consist of all the existing insect controlling events of SmartStax® as we know it today, plus a new event that will add a 3rd mode of action for rootworm larvae control.

This new event is called CRW III. CRW III was developed by researchers at Monsanto utilizing an exciting new technology known as RNA i or RNA interference. It is sometimes referred to as gene silencing technology. Since it can be used to target the production of very specific critical proteins, cancer researchers are studying this technology as a possible tool to control the spread of cancer cells. This is possible because cancer cells are slightly different from the normal cells around them and they produce some different proteins that are critical to their own survival. The basic concept of the science is this: Inside the cells of all living organisms is the cell’s nucleus. The nucleus is basically the cell’s warehouse for its genes. Each gene has only one function; to provide the set of instructions for the cell to produce one very specific protein. The genes that are contained in every cell provide the sets of instructions for producing every protein that the organism needs throughout its life cycle. A substance called RNA is the “delivery system” that copies the instructions from the genes, transports them out of the “warehouse”, and delivers them to a “factory” in the cell where proteins are assembled. If the RNA is interfered with and prevented from delivering the instructions for assembling a protein critical for that organism to survive, that organism will die. For the system to work, researchers must identify the critical protein in the pest and then identify the system that will interfere with the RNA that delivers the instructions to produce it. For CRW III, a gene was inserted into the corn cell that provided instructions for the plant to make a very specific protein. This protein, when ingested by a rootworm larvae feeding on the corn roots, prevents a very specific RNA in the corn rootworm cells from making a very specific protein that is critical for it to live. It only affects that specific RNA in that specific organism. Fascinating!

You will hear and read a lot more about RNA i in the future. I hope this helps you understand the concept a bit better. I am confident it will have many applications in controlling pests such as diseases, insects, viruses, and also weeds. CRW III in combination with the current SmartStax® events will enhance the effectiveness in controlling rootworm damage by adding an additional mode of action for controlling the pest. It will also prolong the durability of the existing technologies. The USDA deregulated this event in October and in November the EPA granted breeding registration. It is anticipated that SmartStax PRO will be available in commercial hybrids before 2020. This will be great news for growers in areas where corn rootworm populations are severely high and where control of the pest has been met with challenges.

December 2015 Earfull Newsletter
Written by Dr. Rick Batty

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