Rotation Resistant and Rotation Susceptible Western Corn Rootworms React Similarly to Bt Corn

A journal article published recently (July 2014) confirms that rotation resistant and rotation susceptible western corn rootworms are affected by Bt root tissue in a similar fashion. The citation for this article is provided below.

Tinsley, N.A., J.L. Spencer, R.E. Estes, J.R. Prasifka, P.M. Schrader, B.W. French, and M.E. Gray. 2014. Larval mortality and development for rotation-resistant and rotation-susceptible populations of western corn rootworm on Bt corn. Journal of Applied Entomology. doi: 10.1111/jen.12149

Based upon some earlier research, investigators hypothesized that rotation resistant western corn rootworm larvae were able to inflict more injury on Bt root systems than rotation susceptible larvae. In this recent paper the scientists made the following observations refuting this hypothesis: “Rotation-resistant and rotation-susceptible larvae had statistically similar mean levels of mortality and head capsule widths when exposed to both single-toxin (Cry3Bb1 or Cry34/35Ab1) and pyramided (Cry3Bb1+Cry34/34Ab1) Bt corn, suggesting that these two populations do not differ with respect to survival or development when exposed to Bt corn.”

Whether you are concerned about the rotation-resistant or rotation-susceptible population of western corn rootworm, now is the time to evaluate the root protection afforded by your Bt hybrid or planting-time soil insecticide. Signs of potential problems include lodging. However, it’s necessary to dig up lodged plants and wash the soil away from root systems to confirm larval feeding. Previous research has shown that one node of roots destroyed can equate to a 15% yield loss in some years. It’s definitely well worth your time to accurately assess the value of your corn rootworm protection tool.

Mike Gray

A Quiet Season on the Insect Front Continues in the Midst of Rootworm “Digs”

From a field crop entomology perspective, this summer remains exceptionally quiet across most areas of Illinois. Japanese beetle and soybean aphid densities have remained very low, seemingly near absent in many fields. With 82% of the corn silking process completed statewide by July 20 and  soil moisture plentiful in most areas, the threat of insects negatively affecting the pollination process have largely diminished. We intend to conduct some insect surveys in corn and soybean fields across the state as we move through early August. Similar to recent seasons, I suspect the overall densities of most pests will remain below economic levels.

Last week, we began our annual corn rootworm “digs” headed up by Ron Estes (Principal Research Specialist, Department of Crop Sciences)  and Nick Tinsley (Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Crop Sciences). Overall root injury in our checks at the Northwest Research and Education Center located near Monmouth was greater than in previous years. Thus far, injury in our checks across various trials located near Urbana has been impressive as well. So, in spite of significant precipitation throughout much of June and early July, it appears that larvae were able to hatch successfully and establish on root systems quite well. As in previous years, once we complete the root evaluations from our trials, we will publish the preliminary results in this Bulletin.

Mike Gray

2014 Field Day August 7 at Dixon Springs Ag Center

The 2014 Dixon Springs Agronomy and Horticulture Field Day presented by the University of Illinois, Department of Crop Sciences will be held on Thursday, August 7 at the Dixon Springs Ag Center.  The research center is located on IL Route 145, near Glendale, IL, 25 miles south of Harrisburg and 25 miles north of Paducah, KY.

Tours will start at 9:00 AM with the final bus leaving at 9:30. A lunch to follow will be provided by sponsors and UI Extension.

The following presenters will speak about current conditions and management challenges in field crop and horticulture production.

  • Carl Bradley: Fungicide Resistance
  • Angie Peltier: Corn Nematodes, The Hidden Menace in Your Fields
  • Jake Vossenkemper: Nitrogen on Soybeans
  • Rachel Cook: Tillage is Recreational, Fertilizer is Essential: A 44 Year Study
  • Jeff Kindhart: High Tunnels, Hydroponics and Mushrooms

For more information contact John Pike at 618-695-2441 or by email at

Brownstown Agronomy Research Center Field Day – August 6

The 2014 Brownstown Agronomy Research Center Field Day, presented by the University Of Illinois Department Of Crop Sciences, will be held on Wednesday, August 6. Extension researchers and specialists will address issues pertinent to the current growing season. The tour will start at 8 a.m. and will last about two and a half hours. It will be followed by lunch provided by U of I Extension.

Shaded tour wagons will take participants to each stop. These topics will be addressed:

  • N Fertilizer for Soybean:  Where’s the Yield? – Jake Vossenkemper, U of I
  • Tillage is Recreational, Fertilizer is Essential – Dr. Rachel Cook, SIU
  • Field Crop Diseases & Fungicide Treatments – Dr. Carl Bradley, U of I
  • Corn Nematodes:  the Hidden Menace in Your Fields – Dr. Angie Peltier, U of I
  • Factors Contributing to a Healthy Soil – Troy Fehrenbacher, NRCS

The 208-acre Brownstown Agronomy Research Center has been conducting crop research on the claypan soils of southern Illinois since 1937. More than 30 research and demonstration projects are conducted at the Center every year. Visitors are always welcome.

The research center is located south of Brownstown on IL Route 185, approximately 4 miles east of the IL Route 40 / 185 junction.

For more information, contact Robert Bellm (618-427-3349);
Visit us on the web at

2014 Field Day July 16 at Orr Ag Center, Perry

The 2014 Orr Agricultural Center Field Day presented by the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois will be held on Wednesday, July 16 at the Orr Center, which is located roughly halfway between Jacksonville and Quincy on Route 104, four miles west of the junction of Illinois Routes 104 and 107.

The first tour group will start out at 9:00 AM, with the second and third groups leaving the headquarters at about 9:20 and 9:40. The tour will take about two hours, and will be followed by lunch provided by UI Extension.

The following presenters will speak about current conditions and management challenges in crop production and protection.

  • Dennis Bowman, UI: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Sky High Scouting
  • Emerson Nafziger, UI: N Fertilizer for Soybean – Where’s the Yield?
  • Mike Gray, UI: Update on Western Corn Rootworm Resistance to Bt: Are Soil Insecticides + Bt Necessary?
  • Mark Bernards, WIU: Stewardship of Dicamba and 2,4-D Resistant Soybeans
  • Robert Bellm, UI:  Managing the Threat of Palmer Amaranth

For more information call Mike Vose at 217 236-4911 or by email at

Assessing the risk of white mold (Sclerotinia stem rot) of soybean in 2014

White mold of soybean (a.k.a. Sclerotinia stem rot), caused by the fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, is a disease that can occur in the northern half of the state in cool, wet years.  The most recent, widespread white mold epidemic in Illinois occurred during the 2009 season, where several fields in the northern half of the state were affected.  In some of the northern-most areas of Illinois, white mold can be considered a more consistent problem.

The white mold fungus overwinters in the soil as, small, black, and dense structures known as sclerotia.  These sclerotia germinate and form mushroom-like structures known as apothecia when soil remains moist for several consecutive days and soil temperatures are at 60 degrees F or below.  These apothecia generally will not form until the soil is shaded from sunlight due to soybean canopy closure.  Spores of the white mold fungus are shot out of the apothecia and land on senescing flower petals, where infections first occur on the soybean plants.  The white mold fungus becomes inactive when temperatures within the soybean canopy are above approximately 82 degrees, so infection and disease development may cease or slow down during periods of hot (above 82 degrees) and dry weather.

Apothecia of the white mold fungus germinating from a sclerotium. Image courtesy J. Venette, North Dakota State University.


Soybean plant with symptoms and signs of white mold (a.k.a. Sclerotinia stem rot). Image by C. Bradley.


So, what does the risk of white mold look like for 2014?  This is not an easy question to answer.  In general, rainfall has been consistent in the northern portion of the state, which would favor white mold, but recent temperatures in the 80s and 90s have not been favorable.  However, the short-term weather forecast shows cooler temperatures (60s and 70s).  If a cool and wet trend continues throughout soybean flowering, then the risk of white mold will be elevated.

In University of Illinois research trials, some fungicide products have shown efficacy against white mold.  Foliar fungicides will not provide complete control of the disease, but may reduce disease.  The results of University of Illinois trials conducted in 2009, 2010, and 2013 are shown in Tables 1-3.  Note that some of the more popular, frequently marketed fungicides are not listed in the tables since many do not have white mold on their label because of no to poor efficacy.  In these trials, the primary targeted growth stage to apply foliar fungicides was at R1 (beginning flower).  In some cases, R1 may occur before canopy closure.  If this is the case, then an application at canopy closure (rather than R1) might be more effective in protecting against white mold.  Also note that some treatments in these research trials were applied twice during the season.


Table 1. Results of soybean foliar fungicide research trials focused on white mold conducted in 2009 at the University of Illinois Northern Agronomy Research Center (DeKalb County).

Treatment Rate/A Incidence (%) 


Incidence (%) 


Yield (bu/A)
Untreated check - 75 95 24
Topsin 4.5 L 20 fl oz 43 96 24
Proline 3 fl oz 38 95 24
Domark 5 fl oz 68 98 23
Cobra herbicide 12.5 fl oz 15 51 42
Omega 1 pt 23 80 34
Endura (2x)* 8 oz 38 86 39
Aproach (2x)* 8 fl oz 35 80 40
LSD 0.05** 33 15 8

*All treatments were applied at the R1 growth stage (July 20, 2009).  Treatments followed by “(2x)” were applied again 9 days later.

**Least significant difference (alpha level = 0.05).  Treatment values that differ by this number can be considered significantly differ from one another.


Table 2. Results of soybean foliar fungicide research trials focused on white mold conducted in 2010 at the University of Illinois Northern Agronomy Research Center (DeKalb County).  Funded in part by the Illinois Soybean Association.

Treatment Rate/A Incidence (%) 


Incidence (%) 


Yield (bu/A)
Untreated check - 18 95 62
Topsin 4.5 L 20 fl oz 9 83 61
Proline 3 fl oz 10 89 66
Domark 5 fl oz 7 76 63
Cobra herbicide 6 fl oz 6 86 56
Omega 1 pt 2 70 58
Endura 8 oz 4 79 69
Aproach (2x)* 8 fl oz 11 79 66
LSD 0.05** 11 NS 8

*All treatments were applied at the R1 growth stage (July 10, 2010).  Treatments followed by “(2x)” were applied again 7 days later.

**Least significant difference (alpha level = 0.05).  Treatment values that differ by this number can be considered significantly differ from one another.  “NS” indicates that no treatments were significantly different from each other.


Table 3. Results of soybean foliar fungicide research trials focused on white mold conducted in 2013 at the University of Illinois Northern Agronomy Research Center (DeKalb County). Treatments were applied at the R1 growth stage unless indicated otherwise.

Treatment Rate/A Incidence (%) 


Yield (bu/A)
Untreated check - 33 53
Incognito 4.5F 20 fl oz 20 68
Incognito 4.5F + Orius 3.6F* 20 fl oz + 4 fl oz 0 62
Proline + Stratego YLD** 3 fl oz + 4.65 fl oz 3 58
Domark 5 fl oz 3 62
Cobra herbicide 6 fl oz 25 52
Endura 8 oz 3 64
Aproach 8 fl oz 13 61
Fortix 5 fl oz 15 56
LSD 0.05*** 22 7

*Incognito was applied alone at the R1 growth stage and was followed by Orius applied alone at R3.

**Proline was applied alone at the R1 growth stage, and was followed by Stratego YLD applied alone at R3.

***Least significant difference (alpha level = 0.05).  Treatment values that differ by this number can be considered significantly differ from one another.  “NS” indicates that no treatments were significantly different from each other.

Overall, the highest level of white mold control will be achieved when several management practices are integrated (i.e. choosing the most-resistant varieties, utilizing recommended seeding rates, applying a foliar fungicide, and applying a biocontrol product).  For more information about white mold and management of this disease, go to, where a 7-page publication on white mold (developed in 2011) can be downloaded.

Remember the European Corn Borer?

The European corn borer, once regarded as a major and consistent insect pest, is now only rarely observed in most commercial cornfields across the Corn Belt. William “Bill” Luckmann, longtime retired and well known entomologist, once mentioned that he had only observed two cornfields “totally destroyed” by insects — “once by chinch bugs and once by European corn borers.”

Gray, M.E. & W.H. Luckmann. 1994. Integrating the cropping system for corn insect pest management. Chapter 12, pages 507-541 in Introduction to Insect Pest Management. R.L. Metcalf & W.H. Luckmann [eds.], John Wiley & Sons, Inc., NY (ISBN 0-471-58957-8).

In 1939, European corn borers were first reported in Illinois and by 1942 the pest could be found in all counties within the state. The circular below attests to the economic importance of this insect and offers management advice for producers in 1943.


University of Illinois 1942 Circular (539) on the European Corn Borer


University of Illinois 1942 Circular (539) on the European Corn Borer


Since the introduction of Bt hybrids in 1996, the use of transgenic corn has risen sharply. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, Bt hybrids were planted on 76% of the US corn acres in 2013. In 2013, transgenic corn hybrids (includes Bt hybrids, stacked hybrids [Bt and herbicide tolerant], and herbicide tolerant only) were used on 90% of corn acres. The widespread use of highly effective Bt hybrids on lepidopterous insect pests such as the European corn borer has had a significant areawide population suppression effect on this once prominent species. In evening drives around the state of Illinois the past few years, the first or second flights of European corn borers have been barely noticeable. Many will recall what these spring and summer evening drives did to our windshields. Depending on the accumulation of heat units, the first flight of European corn borers generally lasts from mid-May through mid-June. Moths emerge from corn residue and seek out areas of dense vegetation found in ditch banks, fence rows, and grass waterways. Females emit a sex pheromone in these “action sites”  very late in the evening that attracts males and mating ensues. Females depart action sites after sundown and begin laying egg masses in nearby cornfields — typically two egg masses per night for upwards of 10 days. Action sites near cornfields are ideal for the largest aggregation of moths as described by Dr. Tom Sappington in an Environmental Entomology (2005) journal article.

From June 13 to 26, a Department of Crop Sciences research team led by Ron Estes, Principal Research Specialist in Agriculture, and Nicholas Tinsley, Postdoctoral Research Associate, conducted surveys of action sites in the following 12 counties: Champaign (June 13, 5 action sites), Clinton (June 24, 3 action sites), Douglas (June 13, 5 action sites), Fayette (June 24, 4 action sites), Jefferson (June 24, 3 action sites), Kankakee (June 26, 5 action sites), Kendall (June 26, 5 action sites), Knox (June 17, 5 action sites), McLean (June 17, 5 action sites), Pike (June 18, 3 action sites), Sangamon (June 18, 3 action sites), and Whiteside (June 25, 5 action sites). Within each action site, 100 sweeps were taken. Very few moths (9 total) were collected: Champaign County – 1 moth, Douglas County – 3 moths (one in each of 3 sites), Kankakee County – 1 moth, Kendall County – 1 moth, Knox County – 1 moth, McLean County – 1 moth, and Sangamon County – 1 moth. In all, 51 action sites (100 sweeps/site) were sampled across 12 counties resulting in 5,100 sweeps that yielded 9 moths, or 0.0018 moths per sweep.

Based upon these results, I believe the following questions are worthy of consideration.

  • Are too few survivors emerging from Bt fields to sustain the continuing efficacy of Bt hybrids against European corn borers? So far, no field-selected Bt resistant strains of European corn borers have been documented.
  • Will the smaller (5%) seed-blend refuges result in even fewer European corn borer survivors in the landscape and further increase the selection pressure for resistance development? Recall that structured 20% refuges were the norm for Bt corn hybrids for many years. In addition, the structured refuge was a preferred resistance management approach along with the use of high-dose Bt hybrids for European corn borers. Early on, concern over larval movement from plant to plant by European corn borer larvae resulted in scientists favoring a structured refuge versus a seed blend for this insect pest.
  • Is the added cost of Bt hybrids worth the investment for this insect pest in light of very low densities of the European corn borer and the less than favorable current and projected commodity prices?
  • If the use of Bt hybrids declined, would producers have sufficient time to scout large commercial cornfields, utilize economic thresholds, and apply rescue treatments as needed?

Time will tell if this once very significant insect pest will return as a consistent threat.

Mike Gray

July 15th Field Day at University of Illinois’ Research Center in Monmouth

The program is set for the 33rd annual University of Illinois’ Northwestern Agricultural Research Center Field Day. The program will begin at 8 am on Tuesday, July 15th.

Buses will carry members of the public to different stops in the research center where campus-based specialists or Extension personnel will present the results of crop and pest management research and current recommendations.

Topics and speakers will include:

  • Stewardship of dicamba and 2,4-D resistant soybean Mark Bernards—Assistant Professor of Agronomy, Crop Science, and Weed Control, Western Illinois University
  • On-Going Concerns Regarding Corn Rootworm Resistance to Bt Hybrids—Mike Gray— Extension Entomology Specialist, University of Illinois
  • Palmer Amaranth: Coming (Soon) to a Field Near You—Robert Bellm—Extension Educator, Commercial Agriculture, University of Illinois
  • Do Soybeans Need Fertilizer N? —Emerson Nafziger—Extension Crop Production Specialist, University of Illinois
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Sky High Scouting—Dennis Bowman—Extension Educator, Commercial Agriculture, University of Illinois

The Northwestern Illinois Agricultural Research and Demonstration Center is a 320 acre facility, established in 1980, 1 mile North and 4 miles West of Monmouth at 321 210th Avenue. Each year, more than 50 different projects are conducted by up to 12 campus-based project leaders and the center superintendent.

For more information about continuing education units to be offered visit the Hill and Furrow Blog or the Northwestern Illinois Agricultural Research and Demonstration Center website.

If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in this program, please contact Angie Peltier (309) 734-5161,

Japanese Beetles and Silk Clipping: New Research on an Old Foe

On June 18, Robert Bellm, Commercial Agriculture Educator, observed Japanese beetles in Madison County, Illinois. Overall this season, I’ve received very few reports regarding this insect. With corn now rapidly growing into the late-whorl stage in many areas of the state, attention will soon begin to focus on protecting the pollination process from insect injury (silk clipping). Recently, some research was published concerning the effect that silk clipping by Japanese beetles had on the yield of corn. The research was conducted by researchers with the University of Tennessee and the University of Missouri from 2010 through 2012. The citation for their journal article is as follows:

Steckel, Sandy, S.D. Stewart, and K.V. Tindall. 2013. Effects of Japanese beetle (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) and silk clipping in field corn. Journal of Economic Entomology 106(5): 2048-2054. DOI:

During this multi-year study, the researchers manually clipped silks as well as caged Japanese beetles on ears. Hybrids used in their investigation included DeKalb DKC 64-83 VT Triple Pro (2010-11) and DKC 67-88 VT Triple Pro (2012). Key findings from this research are outlined below:

  • “Manually clipping silks multiple times daily appeared to simulate the effects of sustained Japanese beetle feeding in our studies.” – page 2052, Steckel et al. (2013)
  • …. “the number of kernels and kernel weight per ear were reduced in the test where silks were clipped three times per day the first 5 d of silking.” – page 2052, Steckel et al. (2013)
  • “The number of kernels was also reduced when four or eight Japanese beetles were caged on ears at the Missouri location, and kernel weight per ear was reduced when eight beetles were caged per ear.” – page 2052, Steckel et al. (2013).
  • “Total kernel weight was reduced by 32.4% at the Missouri location for the ears where eight beetles were caged on them, but there was no significant reduction in total kernel weight for the same treatment at the Tennessee location. The dramatic reduction in total kernel weight at the Missouri location may have resulted from other environmental stressors. The Tennessee location had a good pollination and yield environment, whereas the Missouri location had a stressful one.” – page 2052, Steckel et al. (2013)

Summary Comments from Steckel et al. (2013)

  • “It appears from our research that protecting silks from clipping during the first 5 d of silking is critical for realizing optimum yield potential. However, the sensitive window may be longer in stressful environments.” – page 2052
  • “Some states recommend treating for Japanese beetle when three Japanese beetles per ear are found, silks are clipped to < 13 mm, and pollination is < 50% complete, and that recommendation appears to be adequate.” page 2048

In the coming weeks as the corn crop moves through the silking and pollination period, I encourage producers to scout their fields for this perennial insect pest and consider the economic threshold (referenced above) prior to making a treatment decision. Also, Japanese beetles tend to concentrate their numbers along field margins. Densities within field interiors may be far lower. These factors are important considerations before any rescue treatment is applied.

Mike Gray

Western Corn Rootworm Adult Emergence Underway in East Central Illinois

Joe Spencer, Associate Research Professor, Illinois Natural History Survey, indicates that his research crew observed a male western corn rootworm adult in his plots northeast of Urbana on June 26. Males generally emerge before the females. Earlier today (June 27), Joe and his students found five western corn rootworm adults in refuge corn. It took them about 1 1/2 hours to find these beetles, so, emergence is just underway. In addition, Joe has found significant root injury on several of the refuge plants. This should not be alarming — recall the purpose of refuge plants is to create survivors in fields to prolong the usefulness of Bt hybrids.


Corn Root Injury to Refuge Plant, Urbana, Illinois, June 27, 2014 - Courtesy of Dr. Joe Spencer, Illinois Natural History Survey.


By the July 4th holiday, I anticipate many reports of western corn rootworm adults in producers’ fields. Although much of the state has experienced plentiful precipitation this spring and early summer, soil conditions during larval hatch (late May, early June) were generally favorable for corn rootworm survival. Simply put, ponded areas of fields were less common in many areas of Illinois during this time frame. These conditions will likely work in favor of corn rootworms. We anticipate our annual root evaluations to begin the week of July 14. I encourage producers to look for signs of root injury, such as lodged plants, and take the time to dig up some plants and evaluate the root protection afforded by their product (Bt hybrid and/or soil insecticide) of choice. With input costs rising and commodity prices less favorable, producers increasingly need to make informed corn rootworm management decisions for 2015 and beyond.

Mike Gray