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Delayed plantings could push back corn rootworm hatches

Agriculture.com Staff 04/30/2007 @ 4:44pm

Cold and very wet weather conditions have persisted across much of the central Corn Belt in recent weeks, delaying planting in much of the Midwest.

On top of these dismal weather conditions, lagging soil temperatures have also further delayed planting. Many Midwest farmers are now looking to the first week in May before they can begin planting. This delayed planting can have an impact on insect pressure, especially by corn rootworms.

"This cool wet weather could delay corn rootworm hatch this year," says Monsanto Corn Trait Technology Development Manager Corby Jensen in a company report. "Wet soil will not likely have a significant impact unless it is wet during egg hatch. The cooler than average winter with extended sub-zero temperature will likely play a more significant role in corn rootworm survival."

There are a number of variables that will determine how rootworm hatching will affect insect pressure, he says.

"Rootworm hatching is determined by heat-unit accumulations," says Jensen. "If we accumulate heat units between now and when corn is actually planted, it will narrow the window between the time when the corn establishes itself and when rootworms hatch and start feeding. In this case, the corn's root system is less developed when the rootworm is actively feeding, and this could make conventional corn hybrids more susceptible to root feeding damage."

Jensen says that if the wet weather conditions continue, farmers using soil insecticides could also face the risk of their insecticide breaking down, resulting in less- than effective rootworm control.

Jensen notes that a new technology, YieldGard VT, can help protect against the uncertainty of the weather by providing growers with greater consistency and improved in-plant insect protection than previous corn rootworm control products, especially early in the season when the corn plant is most susceptible to rootworm feeding. YieldGard VT technology is a process for inserting multiple biotech genes into plant chromosomes to create stacked products.

Jensen says that as long as corn planting isn't severely delayed, growers can expect a more normal rootworm cycle, but only time will tell how the cold winter and cool wet spring conditions will impact heavier than average rootworm pressure this season.

Cold and very wet weather conditions have persisted across much of the central Corn Belt in recent weeks, delaying planting in much of the Midwest.

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