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Colder winter could mean fewer pests for this year's crops

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JOHNSTON, Iowa – A persistently cold winter could affect the presence of pests on this year’s corn and soybean crop.

This winter may have been the 9th coldest in the past 141 years of record keeping, but truly noteworthy were the persistently cold temperatures. And, as you might expect, in terms of pressure factors on this year’s crop, insects will suffer more than disease organisms.

DuPont Pioneer Technical Services Manager Brent Wilson says insect pressure in the spring generally will be lower due to the winter, most notably on soybean pests like stinkbugs and bean leaf beetles, which overwinter above-ground.

“We’ll probably see those populations greatly diminished and not have to worry so much about early season bean-leaf beetle problems,” says Wilson. “We know once temperatures get below 14 degrees Fahrenheit, that population really has a hard time surviving. Corn root worms [are] built to survive cold temperatures, and you think about where corn root worms live in the winter time, it’s in the top foot of the soil. And even if the frost goes to four foot in depth, it really hasn’t changed for their ability to survive.”

Wilson also points out it’s not clear how large or small populations will be in specific areas, which means producers probably won’t want to change cropping plans with the expectation of lower pest populations.

But as farmers look ahead to the spring, what is their best defense against pest pressure? Wilson says the answer to that question has two steps.

“The seed treatments are very important to help protect that seed from insect pests or early season diseases,” Wilson says. “We highly recommend a premium seed treatment to go in and give us the protection against both soil diseases, and whatever soil pests might be there as far as insects that might feed on that seed or seedling. So that’s probably step one. Step two is scouting; it’s a big issue because we have tools in the toolbox to control in-season insects, and in-season diseases.”