Over the summer, I had the opportunity to drive through such states as Iowa and Illinois and admire some tremendous corn fields. Now, as we head into a record setting harvest season, I can’t help but feel proud of how farmers and the agriculture industry overall managed to minimize corn rootworm damage this season, to help maximize this crop’s growth potential.
Over the past several years, farmers, academics, seed companies, and retailers have worked together to identify Best Management Practices (BMPs) to help manage corn rootworm, one of the most devastating pests for corn. This has been one of the areas where industry and farmers have come together in a proactive, on-the ground, approach, which has been embraced by farmers and is working.
These BMPs include:
- Rotating to soybeans or another crop suitable for their geography,
- Using pyramided dual mode of action technology to help manage and protect against insects both above and below the soil, and,
- If farmers chose to plant with a single-mode of action technology, using a soil-applied insecticide on fields where the potential for moderate to high rootworm pressure exists.
In addition to the BMPs, new tools are available, like InsectForecast.com, to help farmers identify when to scout their fields, and the Genuity Rootworm Manager App, a free app that farmers and dealers could use to help determine the risk of corn rootworm in each of their fields, while providing management guidelines at each stage of the season.
Make no mistake: Weather played a large role in controlling the rootworm population. Most of the Corn Belt experienced an especially cold winter, which was then followed by a very wet spring. These factors likely helped to destroy more rootworm eggs and larvae. However, let’s not discount the tremendous efforts farmers, academics, and the industry have made to better manage this challenging pest.
The combination of weather and BMP implementation led to an 85 percent drop in product performance inquiries (i.e. confirmed reports of greater than expected corn rootworm damage in fields planted with Monsanto rootworm technology) in 2014. That meant that the percentage of acres that experienced performance issues dropped from .2 percent in 2013 to .02 percent in 2014.
Each year, each season, is different and presents its own set of challenges. Let’s continue to be proactive in combating this problematic pest. I am confident we will see more great harvests like this one.