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4 ways to lose money

Agriculture.com Staff 05/21/2008 @ 10:25am

Think you can't lose money in these days of double-digit-dollar-per-bushel soybean prices?

From a pest management standpoint, higher prices and spiraling input costs make it easier than you'd think, says Leon Higley, University of Nebraska entomologist.

"The premium placed on bad decisions has greatly increased," says Higley. "You'll guarantee a significant loss of income if you treat $12 beans like $5 beans."

Avoiding these four pest management mistakes will help you pocket the profit potential that 2008 packs.

Failing to treat a ballooning insect invasion can shred soybean yield potential to bits. Today's amplified price environment mandates more field monitoring.

"Scouting in general will be more important," says Michael McNeill, president of Ag Advisory, an Algona, Iowa, crop consulting firm. "The disease and insect pest thresholds will change a little bit just because of the increased value of the crop."

For example, the second generation of bean leaf beetle, which normally appears in mid-August, is the most yield damaging of each year's three beetle populations. Second-generation treatment thresholds are set by levels of the earlier emerging first generation. Thresholds move in synch with the value of soybeans.

"If soybeans are worth twice as much, it takes half as many bean leaf beetles to cause (economic) injury," says Higley.

Treat a pest too late and not only are you out the money but also you have an insect-ravaged crop.

For example, soybean aphid populations can quickly zoom to yield-damaging levels within days. Most entomologists peg 250 aphids per plant as the threshold to treat. It's a predictive threshold, meaning that actual economic damage doesn't start until later.

"The economic threshold for soybean aphids is very conservative," says Kevin Steffey, University of Illinois Extension entomologist. "If we could guarantee populations stay at 250 aphids per plant, (economic) yield loss would be unlikely."

The point at which yield loss outweighs treatment cost revolves around 650 aphids per plant. However, aphid levels can explode under optimum conditions and quickly zoom to 650 from 250 per plant. By the time farmers line up an insecticide treatment, a mushrooming population could key yield damage. The 250-level gives farmers time to line up treatment before severe yield damage occurs, Steffey adds.

Think you can't lose money in these days of double-digit-dollar-per-bushel soybean prices?

An example of unnecessary treatment occurs when farmers treat the earliest bean leaf beetle wave -- the overwintering population.

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