Cold Weather Needed to Manage Pest Pressure, says OMAFRA Entomologist

A recent spurt of colder weather in Ontario is bad news for pests and good news for farmers, says OMAFRA Field Entomologist Tracey Baute.

“It makes entomologists a little nervous, especially when we don’t see winter arriving until mid January,” says Baute who’s concerned that the warm fall and late-arriving winter of 2016 will mean high pest pressure for the coming spring.

“We know that pests like bean leaf beetle and corn flea beetle are really dependent on December, January and February temperatures as to how well they overwinter. If it’s not cold enough in those three months in particular, they tend to be much more problematic the next spring,” notes Baute.

The problem could be further amplified by new Ontario seed treatment use regulations that limit farmers’ use of neonicotinoid seed treatments to only 50% of their corn and soybean acres.

See related story: Wheat Pete’s Word — Special Edition, Oct 21: Throwing Stones, Armageddon and Ontario’s Neonicotinoid Regulations

Baute has some advice to help farmers utilize their treated seed to best manage potential pest pressure. “If you are planting early, make sure that those fields are the ones that get protected first with insecticide because bean leaf beetles are going to move into the first emerging soybean fields in the area and if they are up and at ‘em early because it’s a nice spring then those fields are going to get hit first.”

Later planted fields may not be at high risk if all the pests have gone to those first fields that emerge.

With half of winter still to come what’s Baute’s ideal farm forecast for best pest control?

“I would like this winter to be cold with minimal snow coverage because snow insulates these insects if they are at the soil surface. Fluctuating temperatures for the most part don’t help. Two months of solid cold temperatures and no snow cover would really help us out.”

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