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Crop roundup: corn rootworm research

05/23/2014 @ 5:03pm

Research grants were awarded to six recipients, and a new app could help with corn rootworm risk assessments. Diversification is key in weed control experts say, and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program spurs new pollinator mixes.

Monsanto corn rootworm knowledge research program announces grants

Monsanto Company has announced that six new recipients will be awarded research grants as part of the Corn Rootworm Knowledge Research Program. The program, which started in early 2013 and recently was extended to 2016, provides merit-based awards of up to $250,000 per award per year for up to three years for outstanding research projects that address specific aspects of corn rootworm biology, genomics and management issues.
 
“The program is extremely beneficial to the research and academic community as its goal is not to examine product-specific issues, but rather look at the broader challenges farmers face when dealing with corn rootworm,” said Dr. Spencer, entomologist with the Illinois Natural History Survey, who received one of this year’s grants. “I’m honored to receive this grant, which will help further my research into the behavioral, physiological and ecological factors that contribute to the western corn rootworm’s adaptations to a variety of pest management strategies.”
 
The CRW Knowledge Research Program is guided by a 10-person Advisory Committee that is co-chaired by Dr. Steve Pueppke, Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies and AgBioResearch Director at Michigan State University, and Dr. Dusty Post, Monsanto’s global insect management lead. Additional committee members include experts from academia and agricultural organizations, and were selected based on their expertise in corn rootworm biology and insect management practices.
 
“The valuable research that is being generated through this program is continuing to improve our understanding of this challenging pest and provide economical, practical, and sustainable solutions for farmers,” said Post.
 
The six awards granted focus on a number of items from evaluating how best to manage corn rootworm under current production practices to evaluating strategies to delay the onset of resistance evolution. The award recipients are:

  • Joseph Spencer, University of Illinois
  • Nicholas Miller, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Paul Mitchell, University of Wisconsin
  • Blair Siegfried, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Douglas Golick, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Mike Caprio, Mississippi State University
  • Christian Krupke, Purdue University

“The Corn Rootworm Knowledge grant has enabled field and laboratory research on western corn rootworm that would not have been possible without this support,” said Aaron Gassmann of Iowa State University and Kenneth Ostlie of the University of Minnesota, two recipients of last year’s grants. “Bt corn for management of western corn rootworm is a valuable tool for farmers in the Corn Belt.
 
Information gained through this research will help to preserve the efficacy of Bt corn for management of western corn rootworm, and will enhance the ability of farmers to effectively manage this pest.”
 
Diversified management practices aid weed control

The best advice weed scientists can give to growers who are not currently challenged with weed resistance is this: don’t rely on a single herbicide weed-control program.

Mark Jeschke, agronomy research manager at DuPont Pioneer, says following this advice is important: “The easiest way to work another mode of action into weed-control management is often to apply a preemergence product.” As soybean planting wraps up in much of the Midwest along with the opportunity to apply a preemergent herbicide, growers can still take proactive steps to manage weed resistance.

Targeting weed escapes should be a top priority when looking for herbicide-resistant weeds and Jeschke says scouting is key to staying on top of resistant weed populations. “Field edges and entrances are often where resistant weed populations gain a foothold,” he says.

Pioneer agronomists recommend growers not only scout their fields, but also adopt a diversified approach toward weed management focused on preventing weed seed production and reducing the number of weed seed in the soil. Integrated management practices can help minimize risk while providing a more consistent, effective weed control program. In addition to preemergence herbicides, weed control can be heightened with crop rotation, cover crops, tillage practices and cleaning tillage and harvest equipment.

“Weed seeds carried by machinery can spread from field to field,” Jeschke says. “An additional recommended practice is to clean tillage and harvest equipment when moving between fields.”

Midwest corn growers need to be aware of a handful of herbicide-resistant weed species on scientists’ radar. Palmer amaranth, typically a southern weed, seems to be naturally extending its range northward. Closely related to waterhemp, it has similar biology but a more rapid growth rate.

“Weed management should be a proactive effort for growers,” Jeschke says. “If you aren’t on top of it right away, you can wind up with a very challenging weed control problem."

Other herbicide-resistant weeds—such as marestail or horseweed—are easily disseminated by the wind and spread rapidly. Meanwhile, giant ragweed (with larger seeds, yet fewer seeds per plant) is a competitive species but does not spread as rapidly as pigweeds and marestail. Proactive control of giant ragweed is likely to have a positive impact on herbicide-resistant infestations.

“Resistant weed populations explode quickly,” Jeschke says. “The discovery of a few resistant weeds one year can lead to real challenges with your herbicide program in just a few years.  Resistant weed populations can grow extremely fast.”

Genuity launches app technology for corn rootworm risk assessment
Throughout the corn-growing season, farmers across the Midwest will battle corn rootworms. Now there is a new tool to help them combat this yield-robbing pest. Genuity has launched a free application (app) available for iPad device users that helps farmers assess their risk for corn rootworm pressure and provides field-specific recommendations for the farmer.

This app was designed by Monsanto insect management technical development representatives, product managers and technical agronomists and is the first app to provide users with valuable information related to rootworm risk and active pest management for the current season.

“After watching corn growers battle this damaging pest season after season, we saw a real need for this kind of app to assist farmers in making management decisions in real time,” said Tom Eickhoff, agronomic systems lead for Monsanto. “In addition to proven Genuity trait performance and in-field experts, this free app is another great resource for our farmers.”

The Genuity Rootworm Manager app allows farmers to do a field-by-field assessment that considers several important factors to determine the threat from corn rootworm to the crop. The Genuity Rootworm Manager app uses several crop and corn rootworm metrics to evaluate risk of plant injury from corn rootworm, including field location, pest population and previous crop and pest management history.

“This tool follows proven pest management recommendations for scouting, practicing crop rotation, utilizing dual modes of action when planting and suggesting specific insecticides based on crop type,” says Eickhoff. “Plus this app allows the user to set alerts, take custom notes, access scouting reports and share results via email.”

For more information, visit Genuity.com/RootwormManager or visit the iTunes App Store to download.

New pollinator mixes available through La Crosse Seed
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recently announced the availability of $3 million to protect vulnerable pollinators through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). These targeted funds will support conservation practices that both foster environmental benefits and provide habitat and forage for pollinating species. The funds will be available to farmers located in the Midwest states of Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin for both technical and financial assistance to improve the health of honey bees. These states were chosen because the Midwest serves as the summer resting ground for roughly 65% of the commercially raised honey bees in the U.S. Honey bees are responsible for pollinating many of the fruits and vegetables that are mainstays in the American food supply and, according to the USDA, collectively support approximately $15 billion worth of agricultural production.
 
La Crosse Seed is now offering two different mixes formulated specifically to meet the requirements of the pollinator programs in all five states. “As a trusted provider of small seed to the upper Midwest for nearly 70 years, we felt it our obligation to communicate with the five states cooperating with this initiative and offer these mixes based off their recommendations,” says Scott Wohltman, Cover Crop Lead for La Crosse Seed. “We think farmers and landowners will be eager to devote acres to this program. Bees and other pollinators are responsible for aiding and expanding many of the forage and conservation seeds utilized in our region. It only makes sense to have these mixes available to the landowners who want to make a difference.”

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