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Issue No. 3, Article 2/April 9, 2004

Some 11th-Hour Reminders About Insect Management

Alfalfa and wheat are growing (and looking pretty good, for the most part), fields are being prepared, and some corn has already been planted. But it's not too late to offer some reminders about insect management for 2004. Following is an abbreviated list of considerations regarding insect management, presented to advocate that we all do the best we can for the economic bottom line and for the environment.

  • If transgenic corn for insect control (i.e., YieldGard Corn Borer, Herculex, and YieldGard Rootworm corn hybrids [Bt corn]) is to be planted, please abide by all insect resistance management guidelines. To view these requirements all at one location, go to the National Corn Growers Association Web site. Remember that if a grower plants Bt corn, at least 20% of the corn acres on a farm must be planted to a non-Bt refuge. We recommend that non-Bt corn refuges should be planted within or adjacent to fields of Bt corn, regardless of the target insect.
  • If insecticidal seed treatments or granular or liquid insecticides are used to control subterranean insects in corn (e.g., corn rootworms, white grubs, wireworms), we recommend untreated "checks" within the same field. These untreated areas of the field (they need not be large) enable growers and their advisers to evaluate the efficacy of insect-control products, as well as to determine whether they were needed in the first place. Untreated checks also enhance the likelihood for determining the impact of any given insect pest on crop development and yield.
  • Use all insect-control products in the manner prescribed by the manufacturing company and the U.S. EPA. Abide by the directions and precautions on insecticide labels, and never apply an insecticide to a crop for which the insecticide is not labeled. Also, please avoid pesticide drift. Instances of pesticide drift harm relationships among neighbors, both rural/rural and rural/urban.
  • Plan to scout early and frequently. This may seem like a tired recommendation (it's been around for decades), but the worth of regular and timely scouting should not be undervalued. Early and timely scouting in 2003 would have prepared far more people for soybean aphids. Instead, far too many people were surprised.
  • Don't apply an insecticide if the insect pest density has not reached an economic threshold. Again, this may seem like a trite recommendation, but it is an underlying principle of integrated pest management (IPM). Far too often, insecticides are applied to fields because neighbors are applying insecticides, or based upon spurious recommendations. Case in point: We learned that some aggressive "advisers" were recommending application of insecticides to control aphids in wheat in southern Illinois a couple of weeks ago. However, based on widespread reports, aphids were either not present or were at very low densities in wheat fields in southern Illinois. When growers heed spurious recommendations, the results are unnecessary impacts on economics and the environment. As the growing season of 2004 progresses, this simple principle will be especially important regarding our response to small densities of soybean aphids.

Despite the increasing trend toward prophylactic insect control with insect-control products, we would like to keep the principles of IPM on the front burners. Let's not erase all of the benefits of IPM by reverting to uninformed insect management decisions.--Kevin Steffey, Mike Gray, and Kelly Cook

Kevin Steffey
Mike Gray
Kelly Estes

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