Crop scouting is the best way to get to know field conditions, identify insects present, determine threshold levels, and know when to act to protect yield. It’s the economically and environmentally sound prerequisite to making pest management decisions, reducing uncertainty, and ensuring you spray only when necessary. By utilizing Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies, you can control and prevent problems before the occur.
Familiarize yourself with problematic and beneficial species
It’s important to develop tolerance for insect presence in your crops. Get to know both the problematic and beneficial species. Not every insect is there to cause harm. Many help, acting as natural predators to protect your crop or pollinating your plants. Terrestrial and avian animals also provide pest control—birds eat worms and grasshoppers, for example.
Crop scouting can help you build both knowledge and tolerance, and be prepared when action is truly necessary. Talk to an agronomist trained in thresholds and beneficial species, and ensure they are not focused on boosting product sales. When you must spray, time your application to protect beneficial insects. Otherwise, spraying may destroy those too, making the situation worse when pests move back in and there are no natural predators left to control them.
Carry a scouting kit
Carry a scouting kit that contains the tools you’ll need to collect, record and preserve samples: clipboard, paper, pen, tweezers, paper or clear plastic bags, 10X magnifier, sweep net, pocket knife, flagging tape, and a pest identification guide. (Field heroes has an excellent FREE guide that can be ordered here).
Insects to be aware of this year are:
Wheat midge – Aside from the odd late seeded field this concern might be over. If you still have some fields between heading and flowering, you should be scouting for them in the evening (dusk). Beneficials: ground beetles, Macroglenes penetrans
Diamond backs – Keep an eye out for them when scouting canola from now through August. If you are seeing some, gently pull plants and shake/bang against something (truck hood) to dislodge and get a larvae count. Beneficials: Cotesia spp., Damsel bugs, parasitoids, green lacewing
Bertha armyworms –Keep an eye out for damage especially as we move into early podding in canola. Mark out 1 m2 area, shake plants and search ground below for larvae, often can be hidden under field trash. Beneficials: Banchus flavescens, Chalcididae, Tachinid flies
Pea aphids – Scout when 50-75% of plants are flowering. Can use sweep net or just do a plant tip count. Beneficials: paraitoids, damsel bugs, green lacewing, hover flies, lady beetles, minute pirate bugs
Grasshoppers – may be a concern this year and we are seeing pockets with fairly high populations. 4 species to be keep an eye on: 3 generalists (feed on all crops) migratory, Packard, and twostriped. And clearwinged hoppers which prefer cereals/grasses. General note: if size of grasshoppers is over ½ inch by middle of July and seeing populations of 10+/m2 it may be time to spray. There are many species on the prairies so proper ID is important, majority are not crop pests. Thresholds by crop can be found here. Beneficials: Bee flies, Flesh flies, Ground beetles, Tachinid flies
Lygus bugs – Quite common and feed on canola buds and other plant juices which can cause buds to not develop, or flowers will not develop pods, or collapsed, shrunk, dark seeds. Beneficials: damsel bugs, green lacewings, parasitoids (Peristenus mellipes, P. digoneutis)
Treat problem pests when thresholds are present
Your P&H Representative can provide help you identify the insect and provide treatment recommendations. P&H provides a variety of pest management options from suppliers such as BASF, Corteva, FMC, Bayer, Syngenta and Nufarm. Contact your local P&H to discus crop protection products that fit your farm.