February 4, 2004 | By: Laura Skillman
OWENSBORO, Ky.

New products continue to make their way to the marketplace to assist farmers in protecting their corn from insects.

As these new products become available there are several items farmers need to consider as they think about utilizing these products, said Ric Bessin, an entomologist with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

“There’s a lot of changes going on right now in insect management in corn,” he said.  “There’s a lot of new opportunities in insect control. We are not losing tools, our toolbox is being added to significantly. That is a good condition to be in. Five to six years ago there was some concern with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency re-registration that we were losing tools but now we have the luxury of many new tools.”

The problem with having an abundance of tools is that it also adds to the decisions growers have to make, he said.

There is a big shift in insect control. Using integrated pest management practices and scouting fields for insects, then using rescue treatments, is still a good option. Those treatments still work well but a lot of the newer tools available today are preventative.

“That’s a shift and a lot of these are very effective,” Bessin said. “So a lot of decisions on insect control are being made before the seed ever hits the ground. The big push in insect control has been in either putting it in the seed or on the seed. Either of these ways is very compatible with farming in Kentucky. You don’t need special equipment and you don’t need to calibrate. You just order what you want and plant it and it does the job that you want it to do.”

Today, four products on the market have insect control bred into the seed and more are on the horizon, he said. Each product impacts different insects with some having multiple controls, while others control a single insect.

As part of using these hybrids, farmers using Bt corn need to use some kind of resistance management plans in order to maintain the technology, he said. In Kentucky, farmers can grow up to 80 percent of their corn in a Bt variety. There also have to be buffer or refuge areas between the varieties, and an area’s size depends on the insect control being used.

There also are about five types of seed treatments on the market, he said. Seed treatments generally control several insects with some having high levels of control for a good variety of pests.

Scouting is still an important part of insect management, Bessin said. Using these products does not mean a farmer can plant it and forget it. There are a number of insects that many of these products do not control so, depending on what product is used, farmers need to be watching for other insects that can invade their fields.

Considerations for selecting a specific technology depend on the type of equipment a farmer has, he said. If a farmer doesn’t have the equipment to use a granular product, then to use that could cost them about $330 per row to add those boxes.

Also, when a farmer puts the technology either in or on the seed then adjusts seeding rates upward, the farmer has increased the cost of insect control, Bessin said.

Calibration of equipment is not needed with most of the new technology, he said. Safety is better and exposure to insecticides is reduced. There is very little dust with the newer seed treatment products, he said.

“One thing I really want growers to consider is that we have tools now that can control just about anything they see on a preventative basis,” he said. “If you go out and buy all these controls based on what you can control, you are going to spend a lot of money, or you can control only what you need to control. I think that’s where you need to be because these are expensive. There are a lot of tools out there and you need to determine what problem you are likely to have and use preventative tools only for those insects.”

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Contact: 

Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: Ric Bessin, 859-257-7456