Monsanto is using a sophisticated forecasting tool this season designed to alert farmers within days of when corn earworms could threaten their fields.
The company is the sole sponsor of the Insect Migration Risk Forecast (IMRF), developed by independent climatologist and meteorologist Mike Sandstrom. The IMRF analyzes moth trapping data and weather patterns to predict the annual northern migration of corn earworms from the South. Farmers can learn more about the IMRF at http://www.insectforecast.com .
“Our objective is to help alert farmers when and wherever corn earworm pests are migrating,” explained Chism Craig, Monsanto Corn Traits Technical Development Manager. “This provides another tool to help make farmers aware of a pest that could potentially cause them yield loss.”
Daily proactive forecasting is provided to identify corn growing regions of the U.S. at risk of experiencing earworm migration. Forecasts are issued for one, two and three to five days in advance. When the risk level increases, Monsanto’s goal is to send a text alert to its local agronomists and technology development representatives so that farmers can be notified to scout for the ear-feeding pests.
Corn earworm moths are showing up earlier and in heavier numbers than usual in parts of the South this season, and entomologists say that trend could pose a risk for Midwestern corn fields later this season. Weather plays a critical factor, as a southerly flow associated with high- and low-pressure cells carries the moths to the north.
Multiple generations of corn earworm can invade corn fields from spring through September, causing the most damage when they synchronize with the corn silking. Female moths lay their eggs on corn silks or green leaf tissue near the ear. When the larvae hatch, they move rapidly down the silk channel to feed on the ear tips or midsection of the ear. Besides yield loss, larvae can leave the corn susceptible to pathogenic fungi that can produce aflatoxin.
Sandstrom said he relies on university data as well as input from Monsanto field representatives to monitor earworm activity. Then, he overlays weather information, including wind flow and precipitation, to forecast migration patterns. “This gives growers a proactive approach to insect management, especially during the peak periods of July and August in the Midwest when cornfields are most at risk,” he said.
Until now, corn growers have more or less had to live with corn earworm damage. Use of insecticides is not economically feasible against this pest in field corn, and the proper timing of applications is difficult. Losing just three kernels per ear can equal one lost bushel per acre.
Chris Chavis, DeKalb marketing lead, said that this season farmers across the Corn Belt and in the South now have a new defense against the corn earworm — DeKalb brand Genuity SmartStax, Genuity VT Triple PRO and Genuity VT Double PRO. “Corn earworms may be small, but they can mean big problems for farmers and their operations,” she said. “These advanced DeKalb products offer a proven defense with the first in-plant control of corn earworm, as well as the first reduced refuge benefits for farmers in the corn and Cotton Belts.”
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