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On the Defense

March 27, 2010
By: Margy Eckelkamp, Director of Content Development, Machinery Pete

Controlling the pests in your fields takes a multipronged approach. Amid persistent pest pressure, the Farm Journal Test Plots have gathered in-field experience with evolving combinations of traits, pesticides, seed treatments and other pest controls.

The test plot effort focused on planter applications of controls for corn nematodes and corn rootworm.

"One pest we continue to have yield-robbing pockets of are corn nematodes,” explains Farm Journal Field Agronomist Ken Ferrie. "When we look at yield maps and NDVI [Normalized Difference Vegetation Index] photos, the yield loss due to nematodes is in the same general areas from year to year. They may be the size of a grain truck, a house or three to five acres.”

Ferrie says that working in central Illinois, it's not uncommon for him to see fields that average 230 bu. have their yields knocked back by 20 bu. to 50 bu. in the nematode pockets.

The test plots have specifically targeted corn nematode management since 2003. The controls used have included Mocap, Counter, N-Hibit and Syngenta's Avicta Complete Corn. We had three test plots in 2009 looking at different ways to manage nematodes. The plots included Counter, N-Hibit and Avicta Complete Corn compared with a check. We built on previous years' data with Counter and N-Hibit, but it was our first year to get in-field experience with Avicta.

"Results have been somewhat inconsistent,” Ferrie says. "Of all those that we've had multiple years' experience with, Counter has been the best performer despite its variability. Of the Avicta plots, one was inconsistent and two were positive.”

Of the two positive responses, Ferrie reports one field had a 4 bu. to 5 bu. response and the other responded up to 19 bu. At one farm, the plot crew could visually see improvement in root system and it showed up in yield.

"This past year we had a lot of water, so that made up for the root damage caused from the nematodes. These studies would be more consistent if we had dry or drought conditions that made the amount of root a premium,” Ferrie says.

Two factors drive our commitment to this ongoing effort.

"We need to continue this because, as our soil testing shows during the past 10 years, the nematode problem is getting considerably worse instead of better,” Ferrie says. "We haven't found a silver bullet, but we'll keep trying what's available on the market. Before it is a serious issue across the Corn Belt, we need to tackle the problem.”

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Early Spring 2010

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