Cereal leaf beetle.
Cereal leaf beetle.

Recent research from North Carolina has suggested that there are times where tank mixing an insecticide with your nitrogen can be cheaper than using scouting and thresholds for cereal leaf beetle. The biggest reason for this is because there is a yield penalty for driving over wheat after jointing and because scouting costs money. However, you can lose money in certain situations.

Unlike, 2014, where you were guaranteed to lose money tank mixing an insecticide with nitrogen, there may a few select situations in 2015 where this might pay. There may also be some situations where you lose big time tank mixing insecticide.

1. During a light cereal leaf beetle year, you can save, on average, $2 an acre using the tank mix approach

This includes the cost of paying a scout, as well as the yield penalty incurred from drive down over the wheat. You can save even more money by doing the scouting yourself (a simple trip to the field in mid-April is better than nothing!), paying a scout and treating at threshold, or by applying by airplane if needed (something you may want to do anyway if it continues to remain wet). If you can avoid drive down on wheat that is jointed you will always save money using IPM and not tank mixing, even if you pay someone to scout your wheat.

2. Cereal leaf beetle tend to be worse in thin stands

Contrary to common opinion, this is not because cereal leaf beetle prefer thin wheat (they actually prefer thick and healthy wheat), but because there are simply more beetles per tiller in thin stands compared to thick ones. We have a lot of thin wheat this year and cereal leaf beetle could be more of a problem than in the recent past.

3. Cereal leaf beetle doesn’t leave overwintering sites until daily high temperatures are consistently above around 60 degrees F

This means that on following a cold winter/spring, we might expect cereal leaf beetle to take longer to leave overwintering. This happened in 2014. NCCE recommendations are to apply nitrogen before the middle of March and before jointing. This means your insecticide will be applied much to early to do any good against the beetle if you tank mix with much-needed nitrogen over your field. Your tank mixed spray insecticide will only be good if applied after March 15. This means that any insecticide applied prior to March 15 is worthless for cereal leaf beetle.

4. Even in a good year, you can still lose to cereal leaf beetle

Although, on average, you can save by tank mixing, cereal leaf beetle can still overwhelm your field if they invade in high densities. The residual of the insecticide runs out after a month. Hence, the tank mixing approach is much riskier than scouting and using thresholds.