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As May winds down, Ken Ferrie is taking a look at some important agronomic decisions farmers can make now to improve the performance of their corn, soybean and wheat crops. 

1. Timing Wheat Fungicide And Insecticide Applications
Flowering in wheat is underway in Illinois and other Midwest states, and farmers are looking at making fungicide applications. In the process many are evaluating whether to add insecticide to their fungicide application to get out ahead of the true armyworm (TAW) population which is significant this spring, says Ferrie, Farm Journal Field Agronomist. 

“I personally think it’s a good idea to suppress the armyworm and other pests, though the timing is not great,” Ferrie says. “By the time we see armyworms, most of these insecticides are going to be running out. But the application will help with those first-laid armyworm eggs and may help keep their overall number more manageable if a big problem develops like the trap counts indicate is likely.”

Ferrie says you may still have to come back with a second, more timely insecticide treatment if true armyworm pressure builds to high numbers, because the insecticides available offer only a week of residual control, approximately. 

Also, if you are dealing with head scab issues, Ferrie says don’t delay addressing it, thinking you might be able to treat it and knock out true army worm and other insects at the same time. Trying to address head scab and pests in one application could be the proverbial situation of losing a dime to save a nickel. In other words, financially, you’ll probably be better off making two applications – one for the disease and one for insects.

2. Black Cutworm Are Feeding And Farmers Are Treating
Ferrie says he is seeing cut plants and shot-hole leaf feeding evidence in some corn crops, indicating black cutworm is at work. Some fields have seen enough impact from black cutworm that farmers have already moved in and treated them.

Traited corn provides some level of protection against the pest, but traited hybrids still need to be scouted, if feeding is observed. Fields planted to Double Pro hybrids that show damage need to be scouted from now until the corn crop reaches V4 to V5.

“If you apply an insecticide (with the planter) that handles cutworms you should be all right but don’t take that for granted. Scout those fields,” he encourages. “These recent rains will help with our planter-applied insecticides, because the cutworm will crawl across the surface and will travel through the insecticide and be controlled.”

In fields with dry soil conditions, Ferrie says black cutworm often travels under the ground surface. In that scenario, an insecticide from a planter-applied treatment might not be as effective at controlling the pest. 

Damage can be particularly severe in weedy, late-planted corn after a soybean crop and in corn planted in flood plains. Wet springs that delay tillage or herbicide burn-down applications are often associated with black cutworm outbreaks. 

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