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Stacked GE varieties of corn have become commonplace

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

U.S. farmers have embraced genetically engineered (GE) seeds in the 20 years since their commercial introduction. Herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops, developed to survive application of specific herbicides that previously would have destroyed the crop along with the targeted weeds, provide farmers with a broader variety of options for effective weed control. Insect-resistant crops contain a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that produces a protein that is toxic to specific insects, protecting the plant over its entire life. Seeds that have both herbicide-tolerant and insect-resistant traits are referred to as “stacked.” Based on USDA survey data, adoption of stacked GE corn varieties has increased sharply, reaching 77 percent of planted corn acres in 2015. Conversely, use of Bt-only corn dropped from 27 percent of planted corn acreage in 2004 to 4 percent in 2015, while HT-only corn dropped from 24 percent of planted corn acreage in 2007 to 12 percent in 2015. Generally, stacked seeds (seeds with more than one GE trait) tend to have higher yields than conventional seeds or seeds with only one GE trait. This chart is based on the ERS data product, Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., updated July 2015.

Corn and soybean returns are highest when growers and their neighbors manage glyphosate resistance

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Glyphosate, also known by the trade name Roundup, is the most widely used herbicide in the United States. Widespread and exclusive use of glyphosate, without other weed control strategies, can induce resistance to the herbicide by controlling susceptible weeds while allowing more resistant weeds to survive, propagate, and spread. Resistant weed seeds can disperse across fields—carried by animals, equipment, people, wind, and water. Consequently, controlling weed resistance depends on the joint actions of farmers and their neighbors. ERS analyses evaluated the long-term financial returns to growers who adopt weed control practices that aim to slow resistance to glyphosate, and compared those returns when neighboring farmers also manage to slow resistance. Projected net returns (annualized over 20 years) for growers who manage resistance generally exceed returns for growers who ignore resistance; they are even higher when neighbors also manage resistance. Projected net returns for growers with neighbors who also manage resistance range 18-20 percent higher than those of growers/neighbors who ignore resistance. This chart visualizes data found in the Amber Waves feature, “Managing Glyphosate Resistance May Sustain Its Efficacy and Increase Long-Term Returns to Corn and Soybean Production,” May 2015.

Genetically engineered seeds planted on over 90 percent of U.S. corn, cotton, and soybean acres in 2015

Monday, July 20, 2015

U.S. farmers have adopted genetically engineered (GE) seeds in the 20 years since their commercial introduction, despite their typically higher prices. Herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops, developed to survive the application of specific herbicides that previously would have destroyed the crop along with the targeted weeds, provide farmers with a broader variety of options for weed control. Insect-resistant crops (Bt) contain a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis that produces a protein toxic to specific insects, protecting the plant over its entire life. “Stacked” seed varieties carry both HT and Bt traits, and now account for a large majority of GE corn and cotton seeds. In 2015, adoption of GE varieties, including those with herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, or stacked traits, accounted for 94 percent of cotton acreage, 94 percent of soybean acreage (soybeans have only HT varieties), and 92 percent of corn acreage planted in the United States. This chart is found in the ERS data product, Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., updated July 2015.

Managing glyphosate resistance is more cost effective than ignoring resistance

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Glyphosate—known by many trade names, including Roundup—has been the most widely used herbicide in the United States since 2001. Crop producers can spray entire fields planted with genetically engineered, glyphosate-tolerant (GT) seed varieties, killing the weeds but not the crops. However, widespread use of glyphosate in isolation can select for glyphosate resistance by controlling susceptible weeds while allowing more resistant weeds to survive, which can then propagate and spread. ERS analyses show that weed control strategies (over 20 years) that manage glyphosate resistance differ from those that ignore glyphosate resistance by using glyphosate during fewer years, by often combining glyphosate with one or more alternative herbicides, and by not applying glyphosate during consecutive growing seasons. Initiating resistance management reduces returns compared to ignoring resistance in the first year, but increases them in subsequent years, as the value of crop yield gains outweighs increases in weed management cost. After two consecutive years of resistance management, the cumulative impact of growers’ returns from continuous corn cultivation, corn-soybean rotation, or continuous soybean cultivation exceeds that received when resistance is ignored. This chart is found in the Amber Waves feature, “Managing Glyphosate Resistance May Sustain Its Efficacy and Increase Long-Term Returns to Corn and Soybean Production,” May 2015.

Glyphosate use is more widespread in soybean than in corn production

Monday, May 11, 2015

Recent data from the Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) suggest that glyphosate resistant weeds are more prevalent in soybean than in corn production. Glyphosate, known by many trade names (including Roundup), has been the most widely used pesticide in the United States since 2001. It effectively controls many weed species and generally costs less than the herbicides it replaced. Overall, glyphosate was used on a higher proportion of soybean than corn acres, and it was used alone (not in combination with other herbicides) on a substantially higher proportion of soybean acres. Using glyphosate alone contributes to resistance. Many soybean fields are managed with glyphosate alone, because the next best alternative herbicides are more expensive, less effective, and/or can cause significant injury to soybean plants. This chart is found in the Amber Waves feature, “Managing Glyphosate Resistance May Sustain Its Efficacy and Increase Long-Term Returns to Corn and Soybean Production,” May 2015.

Genetically engineered seeds planted on over 90 percent of U.S. corn, cotton and soybean acres

Thursday, August 7, 2014

U.S. farmers have adopted genetically engineered (GE) seeds in the 19 years since their commercial introduction, despite their typically higher seed prices. Herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops, developed to survive the application of specific herbicides that previously would have destroyed the crop along with the targeted weeds, provide farmers with a broader variety of options for weed control. Insect-resistant crops contain a gene from the soil bacterium Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) that produces a protein toxic to specific insects, protecting the plant over its entire life. “Stacked” seed varieties carry both HT and Bt traits and now account for a large majority of GE corn and cotton seeds. In 2014, adoption of GE varieties, including those with herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, or stacked traits, reached 96 percent of cotton acreage, 94 percent of soybean acreage (soybeans have only HT varieties), and 93 percent of corn acreage planted in the United States. This chart comes from the ERS data product, Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., updated July 2014.

Herbicide-tolerant (HT) soybean growers more likely to practice conservation tillage

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

By leaving at least 30 percent of crop residue covering the soil surface after all tillage and planting operations, conservation tillage (including no-till, ridge-till, and mulch-till) reduces soil erosion, increases water retention, and reduces soil degradation and water/chemical runoff. Conservation tillage also reduces the carbon footprint of agriculture. By 2006, approximately 86 percent of land planted with herbicide tolerant (HT) soybeans was under conservation tillage, compared to only 36 percent of conventional soybean acres. Differences in the use of no-till were just as pronounced. While approximately 45 percent of HT soybean acres were cultivated using no-till technologies in 2006, only 5 percent of the acres planted with conventional seeds were cultivated using no-till techniques, which are often considered the most effective of all conservation tillage systems. Cotton and corn data exhibit similar, though less pronounced, patterns. This chart is found in “Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops by U.S. Farmers Has Increased Steadily for Over 15 Years” in the March 2014 Amber Waves online magazine.

Adoption of insect-resistant GE corn varies by region

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Genetically engineered (GE) crops are being developed with various traits; the most widely-adopted GE crops to date are designed to help farmers control insect and weed pests. To control insect damage, Bt corn is genetically engineered to carry the gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, which produces a protein that is toxic when ingested by certain insects. Bt corn with traits to control the European corn borer was introduced commercially in 1996, with additional traits to control other types of insects introduced beginning in 2003. Farmers planting Bt crops benefit from decreased dependence on weather conditions affecting the timing and effectiveness of traditional insecticide applications because the Bt toxin remains active in the plant throughout the crop year. By improving pest control, Bt corn produces higher yields when pest infestation is a problem. More than 60 percent of U.S. corn farmers planted Bt corn in 2010 in response to the threat of highly localized insect infestations. This chart is found in the ERS report, Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States, ERR-162, February 2014.

Genetically engineered (GE) crops incorporate a diverse set of traits

Monday, March 31, 2014

The successful commercialization of GE varieties culminates earlier research and development (R&D) efforts in agricultural biotechnology. One measure of previous and ongoing R&D activity is the number of field releases for testing of GE varieties approved by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). As of September 2013, about 7,800 releases were approved for GE corn, more than 2,200 for GE soybeans, more than 1,100 for GE cotton, and about 900 for GE potatoes. Field releases were approved for GE varieties with herbicide tolerance, insect resistance, product quality such as flavor or nutrition, agronomic properties like drought resistance, and virus/fungal resistance. After successful field testing, deregulation allows seed companies to commercialize the seeds that they have developed. As of September 2013, APHIS had received 145 petitions for deregulation and had approved 96 petitions after having determined that the organism (i.e., the GE plant) is unlikely to pose a plant pest risk. In addition to corn, cotton, and soybeans, APHIS has approved petitions for deregulation for GE varieties of tomatoes, rapeseed/canola, potatoes, sugarbeets, papaya, rice, squash, alfalfa, plum, rose, tobacco, flax, and chicory. This chart is found in “Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops by U.S. Farmers Has Increased Steadily for Over 15 Years” in the March 2014 edition of Amber Waves online magazine.

Insect resistant GE crops may have area-wide insect suppression benefits

Monday, March 17, 2014

Since their first successful commercial introduction in the United States in 1996, genetically engineered (GE) seeds have been widely adopted by U.S. corn, cotton, and soybean farmers. In 2013, 169 million acres of GE corn, cotton, and soybean were planted, accounting for about half of U.S. land used for crops. One trait engineered into GE corn and cotton is resistance to certain insects (by introducing a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)), protecting the plant over its entire life cycle. Bt corn was planted on 19 percent of corn acres in 2000, 35 percent in 2005, and 76 percent in 2013. Over this period, insecticide use on corn has declined for both Bt adopters and nonadopters. These trends are consistent with research findings that area-wide suppression of certain insects is associated with Bt crop use, benefiting not only Bt adopters but non-adopters as well. However, there are some recent indications that insect resistance is developing to some Bt traits in some areas, which may increase insecticide use compared to the 2010 low levels. This chart can be found in Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States, ERR-162, February 2014.

Adoption of "stacked" GE varieties of corn jumps in 2013

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

U.S. farmers have embraced genetically engineered (GE) seeds in the more than 15 years since their commercial introduction. Herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops, developed to survive application of specific herbicides that previously would have destroyed the crop along with the targeted weeds, provide farmers with a broader variety of options for effective weed control. Based on USDA survey data, HT-only corn dropped from 21 percent of planted corn acreage in 2012 to 14 percent in 2013. Insect-resistant crops contain a gene from the soil bacterium Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) that produces a protein that is toxic to specific insects, protecting the plant over its entire life. Use of Bt-only corn dropped from around 16 percent of planted corn acreage in recent years to 5 percent in 2013. Adoption of “stacked” gene corn varieties (with both HT and Bt traits), though, increased sharply in 2013, reaching 71 percent of planted corn acres (up from 52 percent in 2012). Adoption of all GE corn, taking into account the acreage with either or both HT and Bt traits, reached 90 percent of U.S. corn acreage in 2013. This chart comes from the ERS data product, Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., updated July 2013.

Global production and use of ethanol has increased since 2000

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Worldwide production and use of ethanol as an alternative to fossil fuel has increased dramatically since 2000. Ethanol demand is being driven by rising world crude oil prices, increased use of ethanol as an environmentally friendly fuel oxygenate, and government incentives in many countries to reduce dependence on fossil fuel by increasing the use of renewable energy sources. Global ethanol use will continue to rise over the next decade if countries fulfill their ethanol use targets. This chart may be found in the December 2011 issue of Amber Waves magazine.

Adoption of "stacked" GE varieties of corn accelerates

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Adoption of herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops, which carry genes that allow them to survive certain herbicides that previously would have destroyed the crop along with the targeted weeds, has been particularly rapid since they first became available to U.S. farmers in 1996. HT-only corn expanded to 23 percent of planted corn acreage in 2011. Adoption of insect-resistant (Bt) crops, containing the gene from a soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), has also expanded. Use of Bt-only corn has remained around 16 percent of planted corn acreage in the last few years. Adoption of "stacked" gene corn varieties, though, has accelerated in recent years, reaching 49 percent of planted corn acres in 2011. This chart comes from the ERS data product, Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., updated in July 2011.

Expanding the ethanol industry may influence long-term trends in the livestock industry

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Access to distiller's wet grains (a derivative of ethanol processing used as a feed supplement for beef and dairy cattle) could spur increased concentrations of beef and dairy herds near ethanol processing facilities. Spreading manure on energy feedstock crops and potential use of animal waste for onsite power generation provide additional incentives for herd expansion near processing facilities. Ethanol's reliance on corn as the primary feedstock and the high concentration of ethanol processing facilities in the Corn Belt could slow or reverse the recent shift in animal concentrations from the Midwest. In fact, current and planned ethanol production capacities appear to correlate strongly with the presence of livestock and, in particular, with livestock's capacity for distiller's grain consumption. This map is from the ERS research report, Ethanol and a Changing Agricultural Landscape, ERR-86, November 2009.

Several factors influence food-related energy use

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

About half of the growth in food-related energy use between 1997 and 2002 is explained by a shift from human labor toward a greater reliance on energy-intensive technologies. High labor costs in the foodservices and food processing industries, combined with household outsourcing of manual food preparation and cleanup efforts through increased consumption of prepared foods and more eating out, appear to be driving this result. Increases in per capita food expenditures (adjusted for inflation) and population growth also helped drive up food-related energy use over this period, with each trend accounting for roughly a quarter of the total increase. Data for 2007 show an 8-percent increase in food-related energy use since 2002. This chart was originally published in the ERS report, Energy Use in the U.S. Food System, ERR-94, March 2010.

U.S. genetically engineered (GE) crop adoption has grown steadily since their introduction in 1996

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Adoption of herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops, which carry genes that allow them to survive certain herbicides that previously would have destroyed the crop along with the targeted weeds, has been particularly rapid since they first became available to farmers in 1996. HT soybeans expanded to 93 percent of U.S. soybean planted acreage, HT cotton reached 78 percent of cotton acreage, and HT corn expanded to 70 percent of the corn acreage in 2010. Adoption of insect-resistant (Bt) crops, containing the gene from a soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), has also expanded. Use of Bt cotton reached 73 percent of planted cotton acreage in 2010 and Bt corn use grew from about 1 percent of corn acreage in 1996 to 63 percent in 2010. This chart and the underlying data are available in the ERS data product, Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S., July 2010.

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