Digging in to wireworm behaviour

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Wireworm is a destructive pest of potatoes, wheat, barley, and other crops. It’s also a below-ground feeder, making it difficult to scout for and even harder to control. Changes to available insecticide seed treatment ingredients has also made it more challenging to protect crops from feeding.

Research from Eastern Canada has made significant discoveries into integrated pest management of the pest, including the use of mustard and buckwheat as fumigant crops in rotation with potatoes.

But there’s always more to learn, including when and where to scout for the pest; and work done by Dr. Christine Noronha, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada at Charlottetown, PEI, is helping answer that question.

Noronha has completed a study that tracks these tiny worms as they travel down, down, down the soil profile staying just below the frost line. Her work sheds light on just how cold-hardy these little copper-coloured worms are, and when they tend to resurface.

The findings, discussed in the audio below, suggest that even a very cold winter isn’t going to slow down wireworm populations, and that for PEI, the pest is at the surface and ready to feed in about mid-April when soils warm to above 8 degrees C.

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