Thursday, August 22, 2013

Soybean aphid spray day complete

Yesterday my lab finished another successful soybean aphid insecticide spray day. We have evaluated insecticide efficacy to soybean aphid since 2005. I didn't get involved with the program until I started at ISU in 2009, but it's a growing research trial and the largest in the nation. I evaluate a range of products, different chemistries, new formulations, etc. I also compare seed treatments and host plant resistance to foliar insecticides. My program also monitors for genetic resistance to our management tools. Eventually, I expect soybean aphid will develop resistance to pyrethroids and organophosphates, so I want to monitor their response to exposure over time.

Wearing Tyvek for hours is not my favorite thing to do!

This year, we have 35 treatments at the Northeast Research Farm near Nashua and 15 treatments at the Northwest Research Farm near Sutherland. We sprayed at Nashua yesterday and will spray at Sutherland tomorrow. Aphid numbers have been steadily climbing, with populations doubling every 5-7 days. Many commercial fields have reached the economic threshold, and foliar insecticides are going on all over northern Iowa. Typically late-planted fields have higher soybean aphid numbers - so those fields should be your scouting priority.

The spray crew is ready to go with proper PPE! Thanks Greg, Tyler, Eric, Cody K., Cody S. and Mike!

If you are interested in how insecticides perform, I summarize all the results in an annual publication called the Yellow Book. You can access a free copies by year on my website. The 2013 version will be ready for distribution by November.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Meet my lab!

It's about time I talk about humans for once on the blog and not just focus on insects. I wanted to give some big props to the people in my lab that spend all day (every day) outside looking for insects in corn and soybean. My lab has actually grown quite a bit this year and branching out of my usual research comfort zone.

Some of the lab (L-R): Thelma, Greg, Amanda, Eric, Erin, Ezra, Taylor, Tyler, Sarah and Cody. Yes, I am wearing a cockroach t-shirt!

Greg Van Nostrand is my lab technician and makes sure the work gets done
Hometown: Vincent, Iowa
Major: B.S. Entomology, ISU (2009)
Sports and Hobbies: retro/classic video games
What else? has wanted to be an entomologist since he was a kid; likes Windows, Android, classic rock and energy drinks

Thelma Heidel-Baker is a new post-doc in my lab. She is working with pollinators in addition to helping me with extension projects
Hometown: Random Lake, Wisconsin
Major: Ph.D. Entomology, University of Minnesota (2012)
Sports and Hobbies: running and more running, triathlons, photography, traveling, and gardening
What else? she has a 4-month old daughter, Ava

Eric Clifton just recently finished his M.S. degree at ISU and is now working on a Ph.D.
Hometown: Gurnee, Illinois [home to Six Flags Great America]
Major: M.S. Entomology, ISU (2013); Ph.D. Entomology, ISU (2016?)
Sports and Hobbies: frisbee golf, mushroom hunting, dancing, foosball, cross country running, photography, hiking
What else? he believes everyone should watch Billy Murray movies, travel often and eat more tacos to vastly improve quality of life

Amanda is a new undergraduate working with Thelma this summer
Hometown: Muscatine, Iowa
Major: Biology, expected graduation in 2014
Sports and Hobbies: music, biking, reading
What else? wants to get a M.S. degree in teaching and teach high school biology

Cody is a new undergraduate working with Greg this summer
Hometown: Maquoketa, Iowa
Major: Environmental Science, expected graduation in 2014
Sports and Hobbies: running, basketball, fishing, hunting, camping and anything outdoors
What else? wants to get a graduate degree and go into research

Ezra is a new undergraduate working with Thelma this summer
Hometown: Tucson, Arizona
Major: History, expected graduation in 2013
Sports and Hobbies: soccer and football
What else? thinking about graduate school in entomology [bonus!]

Hailey is a new undergraduate working with Greg this summer
Hometown: Urbandale, Iowa
Major: Biology and Accounting, expected graduation in 2015
Sports and Hobbies: softball, camping, fishing, playing with animals
What else? loves ice cream and her favorite color is blue

Joe is a new undergraduate working with Thelma this summer
Hometown: Ankeny, Iowa
Major: History, expected graduation in 2013
Sports and Hobbies: golf and tennis
What else? after college, he wants to move to Oregon or Washington

Kiley is a new undergraduate working with Eric this summer
Hometown: Buffalo, Minnesota
Major: Forestry, expected graduation in 2013
Sports and Hobbies: brewing tea, tying shoelaces and the pursuit of adventure
What else? she wants to breed a bevy of homing pigeons to help communication in southern Canada

Sarah is a new undergraduate working with Eric this summer
Hometown: Belleville, Illinois
Major: Animal Ecology and Biology, expected graduation in 2014
Sports and Hobbies: photography, watching baseball, and visiting classic car museums
What else? she is allergic to oranges

Sydney is a new undergraduate working with Greg this summer
Hometown: Pleasantville, Iowa
Major: Biology, expected graduation in 2014
Sports and Hobbies: hiking, photography, hanging with friends, traveling and dog (Winston)
What else? wants to get a graduate degree and conduct field research as a wildlife biologist

Taylor has been working for us since 2012; she is working with Greg again this summer
Hometown: Sioux City, Iowa
Major: Animal Science, expected graduation in 2015
Sports and Hobbies: movies, swimming, fishing, hiking
What else? aphids are awesome! [obvious brown-nosing attempt, but that is the correct answer!]

Tyler has been working for use since 2012; he is doing an independent study in grapes this summer
Hometown: Williamsburg, Iowa
Major: Horticulture (Fruit Production), expected graduation in 2014
Sports and Hobbies: hockey, trap shooting, golf, disc golf, boating, bonfires
What else? after college, he hopes to own his own vineyard in the midwest and make beer and wine

Aphid numbers quickly building in Iowa - try Speed Scouting!

In a recent ICM News article, I reviewed scouting and management tactics for aphids in field crops. They seem to be popping up in Iowa corn and soybean, especially in the northern counties. Soybean aphid populations are doubling every few days in my small plot efficacy evaluation trial at the ISU Northeast Research Farm. Populations will likely exceed the economic threshold of 250 per plant next week and we plan to make our foliar applications when that happens. It always raises a red flag to me when most plants within a field have some soybean aphid - even just a couple on most plants. A week of favorable temperatures can allow them to have exponential growth. We also know that soybean aphids generate more winged adults after soybean bloom and are highly mobile short and long distances.

Now is the time for soybean aphid. Turn over leaves and estimate aphids per plant. 

Have you ever tried Speed Scouting to make treatment decisions for soybean aphid? In an area with lots of soybean aphid, this sampling method can greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to decide if an application is needed. I've got blank Speed Scouting forms available here. Or you can take a look at a blank form below.

It's easy to use and most importantly can save a lot of time (hence the name!). You only have to count to 40. Once you get to 40 - stop and consider that plant infested. Look at 11 plants to get started and then use the decision matrix to get the sampling decision. Most of time you will know if you should treat or not in less than 15 minutes.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Learn how to identify Japanese beetle females

Recently, I had a crop consultant ask me to verify his male/female specimens of Japanese beetle. He squished them to look for eggs (which is highly diagnostic of a female!). I thought there might be an easier and less messy way to determine the sex. But after spending some time online and reading through my textbooks, I only found a few external characteristics that were different. I was somewhat disappointed because sometimes beetles have drastically body features. When males and females of the same species look different - that is called sexual dimorphism.

Western hercules beetles on ash; note male horn on top and size difference. Photo by Alex Wild

Depending on how good your eyesight is, you will be able to tell male from female Japanese beetle. Look at the first pair of legs and focus on the tibia. The tibia is the late large segment before the tarsus, or "feet." You may need a hand lens to see the tibia. The male will have spikes on the tibia and the female will have more spoon-like paddles. 
Male Japanese beetle. Photo by Tom Hillyer. 

Female Japanese beetle. Photo by Tom Hillyer. 

Or just use the squish test to look for eggs in female Japanese beetle. Photo by Tom Hillyer. 

For more information (with drawings), visit these websites: University of Tennessee Extension and NAPPFAST

Friday, August 2, 2013

Thinking about treating corn rootworm adults? Read this first.

Adult corn rootworm emergence is in full swing all around Iowa. Actually seeing adults is a good reminder to assess for larval injury before too much root regrowth obscures feeding. Questions about adult management are popping up from ISU field agronomists, crop consultants, and farmers. My answer is not automatic - it really depends on the field history and ultimate goal for long-term production. Ask yourself:

#1. Are adults interfering with pollination? Adults aren't considered an economically important life stage unless they clip silks and prevent pollination. The late planting of many fields this year is coinciding with adult emergence. Silk feeding is certainly happening around Iowa. They are strongly attracted to green silks and will "chase" silks in neighboring fields. Target late-planted or late-maturing hybrids for your scouting efforts. After pollination is complete, they will feed on corn leaves, but that is considered minimal.

Consider a foliar treatment if: 5 or more beetles per ear AND silks have been clipped to less than 1/2 inch AND pollination is not complete. The threshold of 5 beetles is for drought-stressed corn; the threshold can be increased to 15 beetles per ear for fields with adequate moisture. Also keep in mind other silk feeders that may interfering with pollination (e.g., Japanese beetle, corn earworm, etc.).

Corn rootworm prefer to eat corn silks. Photo by John Obermeyer, Purdue University Extension. 

#2. Is pollination complete? If the goal is try and reduce the egg deposition and potential larval damage the next season, then my response gets a little more complicated. First determine if action should be taken by estimating adult density. If scouting reveals 1-2 beetles per plant in continuous corn, it is recommended to take some sort of action; see the table below for more specific numbers. Taking action means targeting adults this year or larvae at planting the following year.

To try and do an effective job of adult control requires an intense scouting effort and well-timed foliar treatments. We must understand adult emergence in order to apply insecticides to gravid females (mated and mature eggs). Plan for at least two applications, about 7-10 days apart.

To estimate more specifically, a biofix is established and is defined as the first adult found in that field. After reaching the biofix, emergence of the remaining population is based on accumulating air temperature (i.e., degree days). Calculating accumulating degree days is easy = [(max daily temp + min daily temp)/2]- 53 (lower developmental threshold). So for example, if the maximum temp for the day was 95 and the minimum temp was 50, the calculation would look like this: [(95 + 50)/2] - 53 = 19.5.

To answer how long adults will emerge depends on the temperatures following the biofix. Warmer days will mean adults emerge faster. It could happen in three weeks or be extended to five weeks during a cooler summer. ISU entomologists studied how long it takes for adult corn rootworm to emerge and in general: males emerge first and westerns develop faster than northerns. Here is a table that more specifically summarizes emergence based on degree days following the biofix:

#3. How do you know when females are gravid? Again, targeting applications to gravid females is critical. But first you have to distinguish the males from the females. Females are typically larger and have three distinct, black lines on the forewings. Males have a smudgy, black marking on the forewings. See if you can spot the male in the photo above. Gravid females will have swollen abdomens that extend past the end of the forewings. Or consider a looking for mature eggs by expressing them from the abdomen. 

Use the "squish" test to look for mature eggs. Photo by Purdue University Extension. 

#4. What are the long-term management goals? If larval root injury is evident and adults are abundant, that should be concerning no matter what management strategy (or strategies) is implemented. Larval root pruning will reduce yield and make plants unstable. I strongly encourage diversifying management to avoid increasing activity during the next growing season. Plus, resistance to Cry3Bb1 and mCry3A is confirmed in Iowa and is a real threat to Iowa's corn production. We need to be more strategic on how we use this technology in order to prolong the efficacy.

Crop rotation is the single, most effective suppression tool. Corn rootworm larvae will not eat soybean (or other non-corn hosts), and starvation is eminent. I've summarized other management ideas in a publication with ISU corn entomologist Aaron Gassmann - read it and pass it on!

Sorry so long, but this is a complicated topic. Hope it helps, Erin