Watch for these Pests in 2014

There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into producing a crop. You take time to choose the right seed products; then wait for fit planting conditions; and do your best to protect yield throughout the growing season. With planting season nearing, today we’d like to remind Midwest farmers to keep an eye out for these yield-robbing pests:

  1. Pythium is a soil-borne fungus present in almost every field in the Upper Midwest. It can cause early-season seed decay and seedling blight in both corn and soybean. There are many species of Pythium. Most favor cool, wet conditions at planting and are often associated with low-lying portions of the field. Good seedbed preparation and the use of a seed-applied fungicide like Latham® SoyShieldTM are the best management tools. At our Latham Research Farm in 2014, we will be conducting trials using a new fungicide component that looks very promising against Pythium spp.
  2. Anthracnose Leaf Blight was noticed last year in fields where corn was planted following corn. It rarely shows up in corn following soybeans. This fungus can survive up to 10 months in crop residue. It’s dispersed by early-season rains when spores, present on the soil surface, splash onto the lower leaves of young corn plants and cause infection.  Most foliar-applied fungicides do a good job controlling this disease.
  3. Brown Spot is a disease that can affect soybeans at an early stage of development. It’s usually found on the lower plant leaves and severity increases with excess moisture in the canopy. Infected leaves turn yellow and drop off the plant. While Brown Spot rarely causes enough damage to warrant a fungicide application by itself; the combination of this disease and other fungal pathogens needs to be considered before using a foliar fungicide.
  4. Bacterial Blight symptoms were very common in 2013 and should be on every soybean farmers “watch list” for 2014. This bacteria infects soybean plants through bruised or damaged areas of the plant caused by wind, rain, hail or other means. Reddish-brown lesions with water-soaked margins will appear on the upper leaves of a soybean plant.  Eventually, these lesions produce large dead areas causing a torn or tattered appearance.  Bacterial Blight is not a fungus, therefore foliar fungicides have no effect on this disease.
  5. Bean Leaf Beetles and Corn Rootworm eggs may be affected by extreme cold weather especially if there is little or no snow cover. A reduction in insect pests would be a silver lining to the harsh winter we just experienced! Keep in mind, best management practices for Corn Rootworm include using multiple tools: rotation, rootworm-traited seed, insecticides at planting to kill the larvae, as well as insecticides later to kill adult beetles.

It appears our spring planting will be delayed. As eager as we all are to get into the field, remember that soils are not truly fit to work or to plant unless you can make a ball of soil, toss it into the air and have it fall apart when it hits the ground. “Have a ball” this planting season!