McMillan: Prairie crop insect pressure light, so far

With warming weather come weeds and pests. So far insect pest numbers on the agricultural Prairies have been light — although that can change quickly.

“Given the late spring, no hot issues have popped up yet.” said Brent Flaten, integrated pest management specialist with Saskatchewan Agriculture in Moose Jaw.

During a recent Twitter chat, Alberta Agriculture insect management specialist Scott Meers said he has found modest numbers of army cutworms in southern Alberta. The damage has mostly shown up in winter cereals or forage fields.

The presence of cutworms has been related to the amount of plant growth in the fall. It’s expected that numbers of these cutworms will be tapering off soon, but other types of cutworms are expected to be increasing. Further east in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, cutworms have not been showing up in any significant numbers.

Early spring is also the time when initial wireworm damage can be seen. Although some feared an explosion of wireworm-related damage would occur with the removal of Lindane seed treatments, this does not appear to have happened to date in the Prairie provinces.

Wireworm damage is greatest in cereals, and there are some seed treatment options available for situations where growers already know there are high wireworm numbers. When encountering bare patches in emerged crops, growers should investigate to determine the cause. Since wireworms live for five to seven years, future management decisions can be learned through any problems this year.

Canola seeding is complete in parts of southern Alberta and forging ahead elsewhere. Both the striped and crucifer flea beetles have been emerging across the Prairies. Apparently their numbers are still low, as none of the participants in the Twitter chat mentioned flea beetle problems. One participant mentioned that some flea beetles were showing up on canola volunteers in central Alberta, but since so little canola has yet emerged the problems haven’t yet been seen. Most seed treatments will protect against flea beetle damage for three to four weeks.

In situations with slow emergence and crop development, young canola plants may still be vulnerable to flea beetle damage once the treatment loses potency. If canola growth is slow due to deep seeding, cool soil or cool weather, additional control measures may be needed depending on scouting results.

— Stuart McMillan writes from Winnipeg on weather and agronomic issues affecting Prairie farmers.

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