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Dry weather worsens corn rootworm feeding effects

Agriculture.com Staff 08/20/2007 @ 8:49am

Corn rootworms are among the most damaging insects that farmers must battle, and drought conditions in parts of the Corn Belt this season, such as Indiana and Ohio, can exacerbate the impact of this pest.

Under normal conditions, with adequate rainfall, corn plants can withstand a certain amount of rootworm feeding, according to Clint Pilcher, Monsanto Corn Insect Traits Technology Development Manager. But in severely dry conditions, he explained, damaged roots make it more difficult to absorb limited subsoil moisture and nutrients, compromising plant health and yield potential.

"With plenty of moisture, a corn plant can compensate for some feeding, but without adequate moisture, it is less able to recover," Pilcher says.

Pilcher noted that corn hybrids with Monsanto's YieldGard VT technology are performing well this season, even under severely dry conditions. Root digs in dry regions show that the YieldGard VT roots are well-protected, supporting more efficient uptake of moisture than conventional corn hybrids.

"We are seeing several cases in Indiana and Ohio and parts of eastern Illinois where YieldGard VT Triple plants are 12 to 18 inches taller than corn protected with soil insecticides," he says. Pilcher notes that dry weather poses a risk even when rootworm pressure is lighter than normal levels.

"In dry areas, it doesn't take extreme pressure to observe differences in plant performance," he says.

Pilcher says similar results are being seen in 22 stress mitigation plots that Monsanto is monitoring this season across the Corn Belt. To keep out moisture, tents have been erected over the plots which have also been infested with rootworms to determine how YieldGard VT and conventional hybrids respond to insect pressure under dry conditions.

Pilcher encourages farmers to conduct digs to assess the level of rootworm feeding in their corn fields and if necessary to consider management options, such as in-plant insect protection, for next season.

Corn rootworms are among the most damaging insects that farmers must battle, and drought conditions in parts of the Corn Belt this season, such as Indiana and Ohio, can exacerbate the impact of this pest.

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