Start the season off right with at-planting corn insect pest decisions

From Southeast Farm Press

There are many management efforts you can take before your corn seed goes into the ground.

Some of these actions are simply insurance and some of them, like your choice of hybrid, are the best insect management decision choices you’ll make all year.

Here are some things you may want to consider for slugs, sugarcane beetle, wireworms, billbugs, and grubs:


Slugs are a problem throughout the Piedmont, because of the residue from no-till, and in no-till fields throughout the east. They are a problem on our seedling corn, especially when conditions are cool and wet which tend to be early on in the season.

Slugs are difficult to sample, not only because of their small size, but because they are active in low light conditions, like cloudy days and at night. One thing you can do is to move the residue around to find the slugs and to look for the slime of their trails where they have moved. The dried slime will shine in the sun.

The best management action to reduce slugs is to till. If you’re producing under no-till, slugs are probably not going to change your tillage practices. Basically the more trash you can clean away from the seedlings, the fewer problems you will have.

Consider strip till. Less drastic steps are focusing on good residue removal with the row sweepers and using starter fertilizer.

The only known remedial measure for slugs, besides waiting for warmer and dryer weather, is to use Deadline M-Ps (AMVAC), Orcal Slug Bait and Snail Bait (Orcal). These must be put out with a spreader and are relatively expensive.

Furthermore, although this product will likely be labeled for 2013, supplies are short due to re-registration. If you might use one of these products this year, you’ll want to pick up what you can now.

Sugarcane beetle

This pest was terrible in the Piedmont during 2011 and appears to be increasing in prevalence. We have no way of predicting if it will be a problem or not, so your choice about what to do at planting will have to be up to your best judgment.

I looked at some seed treatments in 2012, with the higher seed treatment rates showing some activity on the beetle. It’s a hard pest to manage, because the feeding is from adults chewing at the plant base as they burrow into the soil.

A 2012 Mississippi test (click here) found that bifenthrin sprayed in the furrow may have some better activity than seed treatments. This is something we’ll be looking at this year.

Wireworms, billbugs, and grubs

Rotation and focusing on early-season vigor will help with these pests. Consider pop-up fertilizer in your fields you have identified with these problems.

Low rates (250) of seed treatments are generally acceptable for wireworms, while mid-rates (500) or high-rates (1,250) are better for white grubs.

Billbugs must absolutely be managed with high rates of seed treatments.

We will have tests this year to evaluate the effect of seed treatments and in-furrow insecticides for wireworms and billbugs.

By Dominic Reisig, North Carolina Extension Entomologist

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