Mississippi State researchers to test pest control methods
Researchers at the Mississippi State University Delta Research and Extension Center believe a new research project can help farmers reduce their number of pesticide applications without reducing peanut yield.
Jeff Gore, an Extension entomologist and assistant research professor at the MSU Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, said Mississippi peanut producers soon will have pesticide recommendations tailored specifically to the local climate.
“We’ve always relied on recommendations from other peanut-producing states, and that has worked pretty well for us,” Gore said. “But we are always looking for ways to improve production while maintaining sustainable practices and controlling costs.”
The two-year study will help researchers understand which insects cause the most yield loss and determine the best pesticide spraying schedule to control them in Mississippi. Scientists, consultants and producers now rely on data from other peanut-producing states, including Georgia, Texas and South Carolina.
“We spray for several different pests in peanut fields, based mostly on recommendations from Georgia,” Gore said. “If we managed three-cornered alfalfa hoppers based on the thresholds from other states, we should be spraying four to five times during the growing season. But based on some preliminary research, we don’t think our farmers are experiencing significant yield loss that would merit that many sprays.”
Currently, researchers recommend Mississippi farmers spray for the three-cornered alfalfa hopper when they find two insects per six feet of row, Gore said. The research may indicate producers should wait until insect numbers are higher before applying insecticides.
Insects in Mississippi fields are the same as insects in other states, but conditions in Mississippi cause the mixture of insects and time of outbreak to vary, Gore said.
“The way peanut plants grow in Mississippi is different than in other states,” Gore said. “Plants here are more vegetative and produce more vines, so there is much more foliage for insects to feed on. Because of that, we think peanuts on our soils can stand a little more defoliation, which may help reduce insecticide costs.”
Three groups of insects feed on peanut plants. Soil-inhabiting insects feed on the developing roots and nuts, and both caterpillar pests and bug-like pests feed aboveground on stems and foliage.
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