Save the Date: Regional Illinois Crop Management Conferences

The dates and locations for the 2016 regional Crop Management Conferences are as follows:


       January 20: Mt. Vernon – Krieger/Holiday Inn Convention Center.

       January 27: Springfield – Northfield Inn Conference Center.

       February 3:  Champaign – i-Hotel and Conference Center.

       February 10: Malta – Kishwaukee College Conference Center.


These conferences provide a forum for discussion and interaction between participants and university researchers and are designed to address a wide array of topics pertinent to crop production in Illinois: crop management, pest management, nutrient management, soil and water management.

At each location, conferences will be held from 8 AM to 5 PM, with a 1 hour break for lunch. Those that have attended in years past will recognize this as a major schedule change. Unfortunately, with the dwindling number of crop sciences faculty with extension responsibilities, we are unable to continue to offer 13 hours of education over 2 days.

Certified Crop Advisers can still earn up to 8 hours of continuing education credit.

Advanced registration, no later than one week before each conference, will cost $100 per person. Late and on-site registration will cost $120.

Stay tuned to the Bulletin for details regarding speakers and topics and for registration details.

Ewing Demonstration Center Fall Cover Crop Field Day – Nov. 3

Join us for our Fall Cover Crop Field Day at the University of Illinois Extension Ewing Demonstration Center on Tuesday, November 3, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. Included in the afternoon field day will be a discussion of the on-going cover crop research, including a tour of the annual cover crop variety trial with over 20 differ-ent cover crop plots. New this year is an evaluation of the performance of 3 new clover varieties in southern Illinois ahead of corn. The Ewing Demonstration Center is located about 20 miles south of Mt. Vernon at 16132 N. Ewing Rd; Ewing, IL 62836, on the north edge of the village of Ewing, north of the Ewing Grade School on north Ewing Road. Watch for signs.

This field day is also held in conjunction with a Soil Health/Cover Crop Field Day held on the evening of the evening of the 3rd and the 4th of November at the Terry N. Taylor Farm, 101 South St. Geff, Il. This program is sponosored by the Wayne County Soil & Water Conservation District. Please contact them to register and for more information about this portion of the event at (618) 842-7602 ext 3.

The field day is free and open to anyone interested and lunch will be provided. For additional information, contact Nathan Johanning at 618-687-1727 or or Marc Lamczyk at 618-439-3178 or

University of Illinois Retirement and New Career

On October 31, 2015, I will retire from the University of Illinois and on November 9, 2015, begin a new career with Monsanto Company, St. Louis, Missouri as Sustainable Agricultural Systems Lead. So, my actual retirement will be short-lived. In this new Regulatory Policy & Scientific Affairs position, I will have responsibilities for advancing important sustainability initiatives and advanced agricultural technology platforms. This position will require close collaboration across multiple teams including Monsanto’s Regulatory, Government, Technology Development, and Corporate Engagement functions.

It has been an honor to devote my academic career at the University of Illinois to the residents of Illinois, the students on this campus, extension clientele, colleagues, and the agricultural stakeholders across the globe. I will retain professor emeritus standing and look forward to continuing relationships on this campus and other universities that have been built over the decades. I will forever look back fondly on the many extension roads traveled with my colleagues in an effort to serve clientele and stakeholders across this great state. I offer my thanks to the University of Illinois for providing me this wonderful opportunity.

Mike Gray, Professor and Extension Entomologist

Online courses target weed & crop management

Each year the University of Illinois Extension’s regional Crop Management Conferences offer hours of research-based education to farmers, Certified Crop Advisors, and other agricultural professionals. Interactive online courses were developed from 2015 conference presentations by University of Illinois Department of Crop Science faculty:

  • New (and old) Tools for Delaying and Coping with Herbicide Resistance – Dr. Adam Davis, USDA Weed Ecologist
  • Confirming Herbicide Resistance – Dr. Aaron Hager, Extension Weed Scientist
  • Corn & Soybean Agronomy: Will What Worked in 2014 Work in 2015? – Dr. Emerson Nafziger, Extension Agronomist

These and 14 other courses covering soil and water management, integrated pest management, and crop management topics are open for public viewing free of charge on the University of Illinois Extension CCA webpage.

Descriptions of each course are listed below course titles on the main webpage (Figure).

To view a course, click on the course title, then click on the words “Begin Course” under the green box located on the right side of the page (Figure). Certified Crop Advisors interested in earning continuing education units (CEUs) must register, log in, pay a small fee, view each slide in its entirety and complete a short quiz (Figure).

If you have difficulty accessing this content, please contact Angie Peltier:, (309) 734-1098.

Making Input Decisions for Corn Rootworms in 2016 – Check out New Webcast

Producers throughout the Corn Belt are in the midst of harvest operations. However, it’s not too soon to begin evaluating the value of corn rootworm inputs for 2015 and their potential value for the 2016 growing season. Earlier this month, the Plant Management Network posted a new webcast titled Estimation of Efficacy Functions for Products Used to Manage Corn Rootworm Larval Injury. The webcast was created by Dr. Nicholas Tinsley, Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois. The foundation for this webcast was field research conducted over many years and published by scientists from the University of Nebraska, University of Wisconsin, and the University of Illinois.

Tinsley, N.A., P.D. Mitchell, R.J. Wright, L.J. Meinke, R.E. Estes, and M.E. Gray (in press). Estimation of efficacy functions for products used to manage corn rootworm larval injury. Journal of Applied Entomology

During the webcast, Nick Tinsley takes viewers through a logical step by step process in assessing the potential value of inputs (insecticidal seed treatments, planting-time soil insecticides, and Bt hybrids) designed to limit economic losses caused by corn rootworm larval damage. I encourage anyone who is ready to begin making these decisions for 2016 to view this short webcast. It could be time very well spent.

Mike Gray, Professor and Extension Entomologist

Sugarcane Aphid Infestations Worthy of Attention in Southern Illinois Grain Sorghum

On August 10, 2015, Dr. Doug Johnson, an Extension Entomologist with the University of Kentucky reported that the sugarcane aphid, Melanaphis sacchari (Zehntner), was collected in two western Kentucky counties (Fulton County and Graves County) on grain and sweet sorghum. The identity of the aphids was confirmed by Dr. Lee Townsend, Extension Entomologist, University of Kentucky. To date, this aphid has largely affected sorghum producers in several southeastern states as well as Kansas, Missouri, and Texas. Recently, I received calls from growers and representatives of the private sector that some grain sorghum fields in southern Illinois were infested with this pest. Counties specifically referenced included Massac, Pope, and Williamson. Infestations have been observed in fields as far north as those located near Marion, Illinois. These observations are not surprising in light of the recently confirmed infestations in nearby locations in Kentucky. Late-planted sorghum is most at risk to severe yield losses; however, the excessive amount of honeydew created by large densities of sugarcane aphids may create significant harvest difficulties even in earlier planted fields. Several affected fields in southern Illinois have been described as “glazed” over with this sticky material. Plants covered with honeydew can significantly interfere with an efficient harvest. Dr. Doug Johnson provided some good background and management information on sugarcane aphids in a June 2 Kentucky Pest News article.

Currently, the Illinois Department of Agriculture is in the process of requesting a Section 18 Emergency Exemption for the insecticide Transform WG (active ingredient – sulfoxaflor) manufactured by Dow AgroSciences. Efficacy data generated by other states indicate that this product has performed well against sugarcane aphids. However, at this point, a Section 18 Emergency Exemption request has not yet been approved for Illinois by the United States EPA.

Another product that has received some consideration for use against sugarcane aphids is Sivanto (flupyradifurone) 200 SL (Bayer). In Dr. Johnson’s August 10 article, he indicated that this insecticide could be targeted at sugarcane aphids with the manufacturer’s 2ee recommendation. The applicator is required to have a label in hand during the application.

I encourage growers to scout their grain sorghum fields for sugarcane aphids and review the articles that I have referenced that were prepared by Dr. Doug Johnson. Also, I will alert producers as to the status of the Section 18 request.

Mike Gray, Professor and Extension Entomologist, Department of Crop Sciences

Call for Grain Samples, 2015

With funding from the Nutrient Research & Education Council (NREC) we started a project in 2014 to try to get a better idea for how much nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) are contained in harvested grain of corn, soybean, and wheat.

In 2014 we tried to get yield level for each sampled field in order to see if yield level affects nutrient content. We found that it did not, and so we dropped the requirement to include yield level (will leave it as an option) and ask only for the county in which the sampled field was located.

We already collected wheat samples for this year, but could use some more from stored grain if that’s available. We also have found a source to get most of the soybean samples we need, though we would be happy to take a few more samples from those who can provide them.

Our main need now is for corn grain samples from across Illinois from the crop being harvested this fall. We request that only one sample be taken from a given field.

Here’s how this works:

  1. Before, during, or (for stored grain) after harvest, send an email to to request a mailer. The email only needs to list the cooperator’s name, mailing address, and how many samples of what grain (wheat, corn, or soybean) are being collected. If the mailing address is in a different county than the field the sample comes from, please indicate what county the sample(s) will be from.
  2. We will immediately send pre-paid mailers to the cooperator. The mailer will include plastic sample bags each with a label containing the cooperator’s name (optional for those who want to receive results) and county. It will have a blank to fill in the yield level (estimated or measured) of the field, but that will be optional this year.
  3. The sample bag is sized to hold about 6-8 oz. of grain, which is all we need. The grain should be dry (at or close to standard moisture) so it keeps well during shipping. Put the bag with grain into the mailer and drop it into the US mail. It will be addressed to go to the UI and we’ll get samples analyzed.

Elevators are a place where samples can be gathered efficiently. We will try to contact elevators directly; if you represent an elevator you can let us know how many corn samples you will be able to collect. With corn maturing rapidly early in September this year, some probe samples should come in dry enough to send, though they may need drying if they’re above 16-17%.

Please email me if you have any questions about this.

Western Corn Rootworm Densities Far Below Average in Illinois Corn and Soybean Fields

As part of a USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) sponsored grant, surveys of insect pests were conducted in randomly selected corn and soybean fields across 28 counties throughout Illinois this summer. Fields were sampled during two discrete periods: July 27 – July 31 and August 12 – August 24. Within each county, five cornfields and five soybean fields were sampled. Within a cornfield (away from the field edge and end rows), 20 consecutive plants were examined carefully for northern and western corn rootworm adults. In soybean fields, 50 sweeps of a sweep net were made in the field interior and another 50 sweeps were taken at the edge of a field (between the last two border rows). Within each cornfield, one leaf was obtained from one of the 20 corn plants examined for rootworm beetles. Each leaf was tested for the presence of Cry (Bt) proteins that are expressed to limit corn rootworm larval injury to root systems. Provided are the key findings.

  • After examining 5,600 corn plants, only 62 beetles were found. These findings include both sampling periods. The greatest density observed was in Whiteside County where an average of 0.1 beetles per plant was found during the second sampling period. This per plant average is far below the economic threshold of 0.75 to 1.0 beetle per plant commonly used to help make corn rootworm management decisions for the following season if a producer elects to plant corn in that same field.
  • After making 14,000 sweeps in the border rows of soybean fields, no brown marmorated, redshouldered, or redbanded stink bugs were detected. These are species of stink bugs that are likely to increase their numbers in years to come. Fortunately, we have good news to report for 2015.
  • Remarkably, only 5 western corn rootworm beetles were found in the interior of soybean fields after making 14,000 sweeps!
  • Across four sampling regions of Illinois (northwest, northeast, west central, and east central), 81% of the leaf samples tested positive for the expression of at least one Cry (Bt) protein targeted at corn rootworms. Of these positive leaf samples, 75% expressed more than one Cry (Bt) protein for corn rootworms and are often referred to as pyramided hybrids. In southeastern and southwestern Illinois, only 25% of leaf samples tested positive for the expression of a corn rootworm Cry (Bt) protein.

Why are western corn rootworm densities so low?

  • There are several factors that can help explain these low densities such as the heavy spring rains that led to saturated soils at the time of larval hatch (late May and early June) in many fields. Secondly, the significant use of highly-effective pyramided Bt rootworm hybrids is taking a toll on corn rootworm larval survival as well. These two factors along with the use of planting-time soil insecticides on top of Bt hybrids is surely having an effect in the overall suppression of the corn rootworm population in Illinois.

Based on these survey data, can I safely assume corn rootworm pressure in my fields will be lower next year?

  • No.
  • Keep in mind there are no effective rescue treatments available for corn rootworms (larval feeding) in most field situations across Illinois.
  • Secondly, corn rootworm management decisions need to be made on a field-by-field basis. Unless you’ve scouted your fields this season, don’t assume that western corn rootworm densities in your field mirror those described as regional averages in this article.

One of the key take home messages from this report should be the importance of regularly scouting your fields for key insect pests, especially the western corn rootworm. Having reliable scouting information on a field-by-field basis this year could pay dividends next season as producers face input decisions for 2016 in the coming months.

I offer my thanks to Nick Tinsley (Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Crop Sciences) and Alex Kaluf (Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Crop Sciences) for their leadership in the planning and conduct of this statewide survey. I also thank Luke Harvey and Tate Estes (Summer Interns, Department of Crop Sciences) for their hard work in sampling fields.

Mike Gray, Professor and Extension Entomologist and Nick Tinsley, Postdoctoral Research Associate

2015 Dixon Springs Ag Center Field Day

The 2015 Dixon Springs Agronomy and Horticulture Field Day presented by the University of Illinois, Department of Crop Sciences will be held on Thursday, August 6 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 9:20.  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.

  • Emerson Nafziger: 2015 Cropping Season Challenges
  • Aaron Hager: Weed Management, The Simple Days are Over
  • Angie Peltier: Soybean Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS)
  • Russ Higgins: Factors Contributing to a Healthy Soil
  • Jeff Kindhart: Vertigro Hydroponic Strawberries and High Tunnel Mushrooms

CCA CEUs available.

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


Symptoms of Sudden Death Syndrome Begin to Appear in Soybeans

Last week, symptoms of sudden death syndrome (SDS) began to appear in April 15-planted soybeans at the University of Illinois’ Northwestern Research Center in Warren County. Weather during the 2015 growing season has been favorable for the development of SDS: cool, moist soils after planting and frequent rains ever since. Symptoms began appearing approximately 3 weeks earlier than in 2014.

While the fungus that causes SDS (Fusarium virguliforme) infects roots of soybean seedlings very early in the growing season, foliar symptoms don’t typically appear until after soybean plants reach reproductive growth stages. Foliar symptoms begin with a yellowing of the tissue between leaf veins. This tissue then dies, becoming brown in color with only the leaf veins remaining green. Leaves eventually fall off, while petioles remain attached to the main stem. The earlier that symptoms develop and leaf drop occurs, the greater the potential for yield loss.

100_4431Foliar symptoms of sudden death syndrome (photo: A. Peltier).

While foliar symptoms of SDS can be easily confused with those of another disease – brown stem rot – one need only split the plant length-wise to distinguish the two. Brown stem rot causes browning of the inner-most stem tissue (pith) while stems of plants with SDS remain healthy. Blueish-white spores of Fusarium virguliforme can sometimes (not always) be seen on the roots of symptomatic plants.

fungal growthBluish-white spores of F. virguliforme (arrow) (photo: A. Peltier).

Although the most conspicuous symptoms of SDS occur in leaves, the fungus itself remains in the roots and in the stem nearest the soil line. Foliar symptoms are caused by toxins produced by the pathogen. These toxins are carried along with water to leaves through the xylem tissue. The SDS disease cycle has important implications as far as management is concerned: infection and colonization have long since taken place and there are no mid-season management tools with which to manage this disease. Management decisions must be made before the growing season begins.

The best way to manage SDS is to plant the most resistant varieties possible. Soybean varieties vary considerably in their level of genetic resistance. Seed companies typically provide SDS resistance ratings. To provide impartial SDS resistance ratings to help soybean producers more easily compare varietal resistance among seed brands, teams led by Drs. Jason Bond of Southern Illinois University and Silvia Cianzio of Iowa State University evaluated more than 500 soybean varieties (MGs 0 to V) from 19 different seed companies. Results from these 2014 check-off sponsored trials are posted here. Results from the 2015 trials are to be compiled and released in October in time for producers to use while making their 2016 seed purchases.

Research has also shown that SDS may be more severe in fields that also have high populations of the soybean cyst nematode (SCN). Monitoring SCN populations and planting SCN-resistant soybean varieties can also be important components to managing SDS.

The newest tools available for managing this disease are fungicidal seed treatments labeled specifically for SDS. While a University of Illinois Extension Plant Pathologist, Dr. Carl Bradley (now at the University of Kentucky) and his team conducted several SDS seed treatment trials. In these trials, the active ingredient in ILeVO (fluopyram) showed efficacy against SDS. Other SDS seed treatments are also currently being evaluated.

As the season progresses and we near harvest, check out the Northwestern Illinois Research Center’s Website and Blog for data from our 2015 SDS seed treatment trial and other research trials at this location.