Looking for an alternative to neonicotinoid pesticides? Alejandro Calixto, director of Cornell University’s Integrated Pest Management Program, shared some insight during a recent summer crop tour hosted by the New York Corn and Soybean Growers Association at Rodman Lott & Sons Farm.
“Integrated pest management is a science-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pest occurrence or damage through a combination of strategies,” Calixto said.
He views the farm as an ecosystem connected to the environment, with each area influencing the other. But this is also not a quick solution.
Addressing pest problems through integrated pest management takes time, he said. Once a specific problem is solved, the work does not end.
What is IPM? This may include agricultural practices, genetics, chemical and biological controls, and habitat management. The process begins with identifying pests, monitoring and forecasting those pests, selecting an IPM strategy, and evaluating the results of these actions.
Calixto called the IPM people he worked with, and they formed a SWAT-like team that fought pests like corn grubs.
“They are systemic in nature, being taken up by plant tissues and moving through the vascular system,” Calixto said. “They are water soluble and when applied to the soil they are absorbed by plants. These are the most widely used pesticides in the world, targeting a range of important pests.”
But its use has also become controversial, and the state’s neonicotinoids could soon become illegal in New York. Earlier this summer, the House and Senate passed the so-called Birds and Bees Protection Act, which would effectively ban the use of neon-coated seeds in the state. Gov. Kathy Hochul has not yet signed the bill, and it is unclear when she will do so.
The corn maggot itself is a tenacious pest because it overwinters easily. By early spring, adult flies emerge and reproduce. Females lay eggs in the soil, choosing a “favorite” location, such as soil containing decaying organic matter, fields fertilized with manure or cover crops, or where certain legumes are grown. The chicks feed on newly sprouted seeds, including corn and soybeans.
One of them is the use of “blue sticky traps” on the farm. Preliminary data he’s working on with Cornell Extension field crop specialist Mike Stanyard suggests the color of the traps matters.
Last year, Cornell University researchers checked fields on 61 farms for the presence of corn grubs. The data showed that the total number of seed corn grubs in blue cutworm traps was close to 500, while the total number of seed corn grubs in yellow fall armyworm traps was just over 100.
Another promising neon alternative is placing baited traps in fields. Calixto said seed corn grubs are particularly attracted to fermented alfalfa, which was a better choice than other baits tested (alfalfa residue, bone meal, fish meal, liquid dairy manure, meat meal and artificial attractants). .
Predicting when seed corn maggots will emerge can help growers knowledgeable about integrated pest management better plan their response. Cornell University has developed a seed corn maggot prediction tool—newa.cornell.edu/seedcorn-maggot—that is currently in beta testing.
“This helps predict whether you need to order treated seed in the fall,” Calixto said.
Another seed treatment is seed treated with methyl jasmonate, which in the laboratory can cause plants to become resistant to corn grub feeding. Preliminary data shows a significant decline in the number of viable corn maggots.
Other effective alternatives include diamides, thiamethoxam, chlorantraniliprole, and spinosad. Preliminary data shows that all control corn seed maggots are compared to plots with untreated seed.
This year, Calixto’s team is completing greenhouse experiments using methyl jasmonate to determine dose response and crop safety.
“We’re also looking for covers,” he said. “Some cover crops attract seed corn grubs. There is not much difference between planting cover crops now and planting them before. This year we are seeing a similar pattern, but we don’t know why.”
Next year, the team plans to incorporate new trap designs into field trials and expand the risk tool to include landscape, cover crops, and pest history to improve the model; field trials of methyl jasmonate and traditional seed treatments with insecticides such as diamide and spinosad; and testing the use of methyl jasmonate as a corn seed drying agent suitable for growers.
Post time: Sep-14-2023