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Crop pests on farmers’ radars

Farmers are always watchful, but insect damage in crops depends heavily on growing season conditions, and also where you farm

Prairie farmers aren’t expecting a major outbreak of any new crop pests this coming growing season, but those contacted for the May Farmer Panel say they need to be vigilant with seed treatments and prepared for in-crop insecticide applications as the situation warrants.

Flea beetles on canola, wireworm in cereals, and seasonal outbreaks of bertha armyworm and diamondback moths, are among the insect problems farmers are wary of as they head into the seeding season. Most apply some type of seed treatment to help control wireworm and flea beetles. And as the season progresses, efforts focus on scouting fields and being prepared to act if pests appear.

For some, their consulting agronomist is the go-to person who scouts fields and advises if some action is needed.

Here is what the May Farmer Panel members had to say about their approach to controlling crop pests:

Pat Kunz Bieseker, Alta.

There are no particular crop pests concerning Pat Kunz as he heads into the 2012 growing season. Wireworm in wheat has been a bit of a problem in past years, canola seed treatments appear to keep flea beetles in check and in late April it was too early to plan any strategies for in-crop pests such as lygus bug.

Kunz, along with his parents and brother, crops about 2,400 acres of feed barley, wheat and canola on their mixed farming operation just northeast of Calgary. Along with crops, they also run a 2,500 head feedlot and a 120 head cow/calf herd.

“Basically, we just deal with it as it comes,” says Kunz. He has some fields where wireworm can be a problem in wheat. He applies a seed treatment when growing wheat on those fields, but this year the rotation has wheat on other land. “Wireworm may be increasing slowly, but it seems to depend on the year,” he says. “Generally it isn’t a problem.”

All canola seed is treated for soil borne diseases and carries an insecticide to control flea beetles early in the year. And the pest hasn’t appeared in sufficient numbers to warrant an in-crop insecticide treatment.

“It is a matter of scouting your fields and paying attention to what is happening out there,” he says. “And we rely heavily on our agronomist for advice. He is scouting fields and he also knows what is happening in the area so he can advise us if anything might be moving in from a certain direction.

“With the livestock operation as well, there is always lots to be done on the farm, so the agronomist is my radar on crop pests. You have to hire good people to help with different aspects of the farming operation and the agronomist is one of them.”

Fred Greig Reston, Man.

Fred Greig says there are no serious insect problems on his southwest Manitoba farm. Wireworms aren’t a particular concern, the Reston area seems to be on the edge of wheat midge region so midge isn’t a big concern, and depending on the year, bertha armyworm and diamondback moth numbers can vary widely.

Greig, who operates the 4,500 acre Avondale Seed Farms, says he applies recommended seed treatments to all crops produced. He has tried products such as Cruiser MAXX for wireworm, but says the pest doesn’t seem to be present in sufficient numbers to warrant routine treatment with the product.

“We continue to use Crusier MAXX on one to two quarters each year and do some side-by-side trails just to see if we see a response and we will continue to try until we can be definite in our assessment of it.”

Aphids in peas and soybeans tend to be “hit and miss” problems for his farm and other area growers. He is using a newer product from Bayer Crop Science, Trilex AL on peas to provide early season seed and seedling disease protection, to improve seeding vigour so the crop can better handle any stresses during the growing season.

Flea beetles are common in canola, but he finds a recommended seed treatment such as Helix Xtra is able to control the pest.

“The seed treatment generally seems to control the pest quite well, and rarely have we had to follow up with any in-crop treatment,” says Greig. “Perhaps one in 10 years we may have to use something additional.”

With fairly cool, wet conditions in recent years, grasshoppers haven’t been a concern, he says. And diamondback moth numbers may be building slowly, but haven’t become an issue yet.

“We need to be watching and always monitoring our fields in case something comes along,” he says. “And we also follow provincial websites for any alerts on pests. But overall, we are not seeing any particular insect problems.” †

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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