Canola School: Cutworm, the buffet feeder


With some insects, we may be confused as to why they have the name they do.

When it comes to cutworms — this isn’t the case. It’s pretty “cut” and dry…as the pest will feed on the stems of the plant.

Cutworms unfortunately don’t have terrific forecast maps, as Jack Payne of South Country Co-op Ltd., explains. They’re a bit of a hit-and-miss pest — with the last major outbreak in southern Alberta being in 2016.

“We could be in for another cycle,” Payne says in this Canola School episode. When scouting for cutworms, the textbook definition will say it’ll likely be on hilltops, but as Payne warns, that’s not always the case.

“The reason they say on the tops of hills is because that’s the soil that would warm up the soonest, and that would be where the cutworms would be occurring first, because it’s warmer temperatures,” he says. “The other thing we’re looking for is if your crop is up, and you’re looking down along a row and see skips, that’s suspicious.”

They feed in what reminds Payne of a buffet line, as they line up into a row.

“It’s kind of like going down the table feeding as they go. So they snip off a plant, move down the row, snip off another plant, and so on,” he explains.

It’s important to identify there is a difference between cutworm and wireworm feeding, and to not blanket them with the same integrated pest management strategies.

“With cutworm, we have to remember, they can be feeding at the surface, or just below the surface, because they do feed just below the surface. Wireworm damage is always going to be below ground. So you may actually see above ground feeding due to cutworm,” Payne explains.

“When you’re looking for cutworm you don’t scratch, you don’t dig, because if they are there, they’re just below the surface. You don’t have to go down to three inches — they’re not down that far.”

Check out the full conversation with Payne and RealAgriculture’s Kara Oosterhuis, below, including when to best scout, soil temperatures, seed treatments, and more:

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Canola School (view all)Season 14 (2022) Episode 23

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