Agrisure Duracade Controls Corn Rootworm Differently

One Syngenta scientist and her team closed a gap in corn trait technology after discovering the Agrisure Duracade trait to control CRW.
The Agrisure traits portfolio helps corn flourish at the Syngenta Advanced Crop Lab in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
The Agrisure traits portfolio helps corn flourish at the Syngenta Advanced Crop Lab in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina
In the early 1990s, farmers had just two options—insecticides and crop rotation—to protect crops from the most destructive corn pest in the U.S: corn rootworm (CRW). This adaptive insect costs the corn industry about $1 billion in lost revenue each year through a combination of yield loss and costs of control measures.

To Hope Hart, lead research scientist in the insect control group at Syngenta this indicated a market perfectly poised for an innovation in corn trait technology. Hart’s unique understanding of CRW and a fail-fast mentality led her to discover a technology that controls this threat and helps protect the corn market—the Agrisure Duracade® trait.

The Roots of Discovery

Using a previously discovered CRW protein and another protein used to fight European corn borer (ECB), the goal was to create a hybrid protein with activity against both pests. Hart and her team, which consisted of just two others—group research lead Eric Chen, Ph.D., and entomologist Fred Walters, Ph.D.—were hoping to give growers a much-needed defense against both highly destructive insects in a single product.
.@SyngentaUS scientists invested 13 years of innovative CRW research and review to develop the Agrisure Duracade trait. #defendyouryields

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It didn’t work. After 30 unique combinations, none were active against both pests. But the first rule of CRW research at Syngenta is to never throw away anything that has rootworm activity.

Agrisure Duracade was discovered in 2000 when Hart went back to the 30 prototypes and discovered that one of them, although failing to eliminate ECB, provided a new mode of action against CRW. Hart recognized that while it wasn’t what she set out to do, this protein—eCry3.1Ab—was a revolutionary discovery. Its unique mode of action against CRW meant millions of dollars in saved crops and additional research. It also would enable Syngenta to provide growers with dual modes of action to control CRW more effectively.

Hybrids with Agrisure Duracade (right) produce noticeably healthier roots compared with competitive hybrids (middle) and non-traited hybrids (left). Princeton, Illinois, 2013

A Powerful Technology

After years of greenhouse tests and successful small-scale field tests confirming the activity of Agrisure Duracade, Hart received an unexpected and dramatic understanding of just how powerful the technology was.

In 2013, a Clinton, Illinois, field that was infested with more than 500,000 CRW eggs and tested with an array of technologies was hit with a 50 mph windstorm. The next day, whole sections of the cornfield were flat on the ground due to weak root systems. Beside those plots, the Agrisure Duracade hybrids were still standing, enduring not only tremendous winds, but also CRW pressure because their roots were protected from CRW feeding damage.
Hope Hart with Syngenta shows how hybrid corn with Agrisure Duracade (right) stands tall against CRW and a 50-mph wind storm in Clinton, Illinois.

A Culture of Innovation

This type of story—an unexpected path to success driven by a culture of innovation—is typical when it comes to developing new corn trait technologies at Syngenta. The immense amount of time, persistence, effort and resources that go into creating a new product is far beyond an average consumer’s consideration.

For Syngenta, the process to bring Agrisure Duracade from idea to market took more than 13 years of hard work and setbacks, 200 dedicated experts, and more than $150 million in research, development and regulatory costs. Technologies like Agrisure Duracade are the product of intentional and extensive research and analysis, so only the best technologies make it into the elite Agrisure® traits portfolio.

Because of the rigorous dedication of scientists like Hart and the Syngenta commitment to innovative research and development, growers can rely on cutting-edge seed trait technologies like Agrisure Duracade to control corn pests for years to come.