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

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