Pest Watch 2014

March 7, 2014 09:17 PM

Stay one step ahead of these insects, weeds and diseases for a strong start to 2014 


Each crop season brings out a new unique batch of pests in the form of various insects, weeds and disease. What will this spring bring for wheat farmers? University researchers and other experts are trying to stay on top of potential problems.

Bacterial leaf streak (BLS) is one disease that has Nathan Mueller, a South Dakota State University Extension agronomy specialist, working overtime. "That’s a newer disease that we’re spending some time catching up on," he says.

A seedborne pathogen, some risk of BLS can be mitigated through clean seed, but there is enough prevalence of bacterial leaf streak in residue and soil that this is not a foolproof control method. BLS is a bacteria, not a fungus—and therefore cannot be controlled with fungicides.

Yield losses from BLS can top 40% in severe cases. University breeders are currently working on less-susceptible varieties, Mueller says.

Farmers should also diligently scout for Fusarium head blight, he adds. Visit for more.

Glyphosate-resistant kochia is the biggest weed threat in Mueller’s area, but he says farmers know to look for it. There is an education focus surrounding resistant Palmer Amaranth as it creeps into the northern Great Plains, too.

Insects: Same players, new game. The insect pests haven’t really changed, but the control practices have changed during the past few years, says Mark Mattingly, retail market manager with FMC Corporation.

That’s because with the advent of seed-applied insecticides, many farmers began using seed treatment products in lieu of making a fall spray for aphids. Farmers began to see that skipping foliar insecticide sprays didn’t always pencil in extra profits, he says.

"We’ve seen the in-crop spray come back," he says. "On wheat, basic practices like a foliar insecticide have shown a pretty consistent return, regardless of commodity price."

Mueller says the polar vortex that fueled a colder-than-normal winter throughout the Midwest left many farmers curious about what insect pests the cold snap might have killed in the process. Certain pests will take a hit from the winter weather, but don’t expect a major impact, Mueller says.

"Especially where there’s snow cover, I don’t know if the cold weather has a really big impact on insect pests. When you’re looking at temperatures of -25°F when we normally have -10°F, does that make a huge difference?"

This spring and summer could see a return of El Niño conditions—and a shift in weather patterns can always shift pest populations. Mueller says it’s wise to prepare for any likely scenario so you won’t be taken totally off-guard when pest pressures occur. 

Don’t Kill the Bees

The Environmental Protection Agency has strengthened label requirements regarding pollinators. Here are a few highlights:

  • A new bee icon helps signal the pesticide’s potential hazard to bees.
  • Separate restrictions on the label prohibit usage when bees are present.
  • For more information, visit

You can email Ben Potter at

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