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Farmers on High Alert for Insects After Mild Winter

WESTFIELD, Ind. (May 22, 2024) – “With weather patterns we’ve never seen before, it’s hard to predict what insect pressures we’ll face,” says LG Seeds Agronomist Alex Cox. The elements are certainly there for a challenging year.

Like much of the Corn Belt, Cox’s territory — eastern Kansas and western Missouri — experienced a relatively mild winter, with unusually warm, 80 F temperatures in February. “That gave insects a head start,” he says. “Plus, it allowed higher survival rates.”

Therefore, Cox is urging farmers to be on alert. “Insects can come in, feed and move on, causing significant damage before you realize you have a problem,” he says. “That’s why I’m urging farmers to scout early and consistently.”

Know your at-risk fields
“A good starting place is knowing your problem fields and their history,” Cox says. But with these unprecedented weather patterns, he says it’s difficult to predict what farmers will run into. Case in point: His counterpart in Texas is dealing with corn leaf aphids, a rarity for the area.

A farmer’s threat level depends on the area, the surrounding vegetation and the weather. Cox elaborates, “If you’re in a heavy row crop area, insects have fewer alternative environments to feed upon so crop pressure will be heavier.” Early planted crops are more prone to insect pressure for the same reason.

Fields with residue are also more vulnerable because the residue gives insects a place to overwinter. “Planting row crops into cover crops has become increasingly popular here because of the erosion control and moisture retention they offer during our hot summers,” Cox says. “Those farmers need to scout more often to make sure they don’t have slugs or other insects warranting treatment.”  

Protect crops with seed treatments and traits
A seed treatment is a must when a farmer plants into cover crops or plants early, according to Cox. “LG Seeds offers a premium mix of the industry’s seed treatments to control early season insects like cutworms and wireworms,” he says. “You’ll be able to plant with confidence and sleep at night, knowing you have a layer of control in place to protect your seedlings.”

Traits are another line of defense against insect pressure. “Traits offer multiple modes of action against insect pressures extending beyond the seedling stage,” Cox says. “Our lineup includes multiple trait products, giving farmers choices for meeting the unique needs of their farm and enhancing their ability to incorporate diversity.”

Keep an eye on fields and consider a chemical treatment, if necessary
Cox says he’s on the watch for the following three pests in particular:

He recently encountered high levels of black cutworms in a field planted to a rye cover crop. Once the cover crop is terminated and a row crop planted, he fears “cutworms will have a tiny green crop to chew on.”

Cox encourages farmers to scout for these bugs from emergence until about V6. Because true armyworms feed at night, he recommends scouting early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

When farmers encounter pressure from pests like black cutworms or true armyworms, Cox says they need to consider a chemical treatment if 25% or more of their plants have two or more larvae on them.

Cox encourages farmers to reach out to their local LG Seeds agronomist for support dealing with pest pressure.

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