No. 3 Article 1/April 9, 2004

Another Year to Remember for Insect Management?

Everyone in agriculture knows that each growing season presents unique challenges and opportunities for crop production. We entomologists eagerly anticipate each growing season, wondering which insects will make their marks and which will be most noticeable by their relative absence. Will soybean aphids return with a vengeance in 2004, or will their populations be relatively unnoticed, as they were in 2002? Will the range of the variant western corn rootworm that lays eggs in soybeans expand in 2004? Will secondary insect pests wreak any havoc this year, and, if so, where? Will European corn borers remind us of their capability to cause economic losses, or will the trend of low densities continue?

In addition to these questions, and others about the usual culprits--alfalfa weevil, bean leaf beetle, black cutworm, potato leafhopper, spider mites, stalk borer--we should gain more insight about new insect-control technologies. Insecticidal seed treatments for corn (primarily Cruiser and Poncho) will be used on an unprecedented number of acres in 2004, so any uncertainty about their efficacy could be addressed. YieldGard Rootworm corn hybrids will be planted on more acres in 2004 than in 2003, and their impact on rootworm populations will be interesting to observe.

Our team comprising the Insect Management and Insecticide Evaluation Program, coordinated by Ron Estes in the Department of Crop Sciences, has ambitious plans for applied field research in 2004, with objectives to address both fundamental questions about product efficacy and more challenging questions associated with insect management. We have plans for research projects focused on bean leaf beetle, black cutworm, corn rootworms, European corn borer, soybean aphid, and white grubs. We will assess the efficacy of currently registered insecticides, insecticidal seed treatments, and transgenic crops, as well as the efficacy of "experimental" insect-control products not yet registered for commercial use. We also will investigate the effects of several insects on crop growth and development, including crop yield, and the effects of crop production practices (e.g., planting time, level of fertilization) on the pests. As always, we hope to share the results of many of our efforts in articles in the Bulletin, as well as in an annual report, which currently is being designed for accessibility through our IPM Web site (

We hope you learn a lot about insect management this year, too. And please don't hesitate to contact us if you have information or data to share. By way of example, your submissions of side-by-side comparisons of soybean yields from strips or fields treated and not treated with insecticides for soybean aphids enabled us to determine the general impact of soybean aphids in Illinois in 2003. Such information is invaluable for validating or revising our insect management recommendations. Never underestimate the significance of your input.

So here's hoping that we have a great growing season this year and that we learn a lot about insect management to boot. Keep us up to date with your observations, and we'll do the same for you.--Kevin Steffey

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