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Western bean cutworms popping up in Michigan

Agriculture.com Staff 08/17/2009 @ 11:57am

Trap monitoring for western bean cutworm (WBC), a destructive insect that can cause severe yield loss in cornfields, has confirmed WBC has spread into central and northeastern areas of Michigan, according to a report from Pioneer Hi-Bred International, whose agronomists have discovered the pest in the region's fields.

WBC is new to this area and indications are that lighter soils in central Michigan may have increased overwinter survival of the insect, allowing it to spread further in the state.

Pioneer agronomists collaborate with several universities in the effort to track eastward movement of WBC. Multiple locations have been monitored throughout Michigan this season, with nearly 300 traps reviewed weekly in the state.

WBC initially was reported two years ago in northwest Michigan and continues to be a concern. At that time, reports were moderate with some localized heavy infestations. In 2008, the insect was reported again in northwestern areas of the state, but reports also became more prevalent in central locations. This year the heaviest infestations are being cited in unprotected cornfields across central areas, as well as northeastern areas of Michigan.

Spraying is occurring as signs of increased populations surface, but spraying must take place before the insect moves into the ear where it is protected by the husk. The threshold is 5% of the plants with egg masses or small larvae in the tassel. With moth flights reaching peak levels and approaching completion, increased feeding can be expected.

Young WBC larvae feed on tassels and silks, but eventually tunnel through the silk channel to reach developing kernels. Direct yield loss occurs as larvae consume all or parts of developing kernels. Because of the labor intensive nature of scouting, the critical timing needed for insecticide applications and the possibility that multiple treatments may be necessary, insecticides may not be an economical or effective solution to the WBC problem.

Trap monitoring for western bean cutworm (WBC), a destructive insect that can cause severe yield loss in cornfields, has confirmed WBC has spread into central and northeastern areas of Michigan, according to a report from Pioneer Hi-Bred International, whose agronomists have discovered the pest in the region's fields.

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