Strong demand has driven up peanut prices and as a result about 25 percent more acres were planted this year in the United States. To capitalize on lucrative contracts, farmers are looking more than ever for ways to protect the seed investment and maximize yield potential. One of those ways is to control worm pests that can cause yield losses.
Peanut growers know the considerable toll that armyworms, bollworms/earworms, budworms, cutworms and other hungry Lepidoptera can take on their fields. Collectively, they cause economic loss that university entomologists measure in millions.
However, these pests are not always considered a top threat in peanuts, but when populations reach threshold, the damage can be significant. Often, a single species’ population may hover near or at threshold levels, making the decision to treat sometimes tricky.
Boost The Bottom Line
Mississippi producer and consultant Corley Moses looks at the situation a little differently.
“We have no serious issues with one species, but it’s the cumulative effect of all of them,” he said explaining their decision to treat worms in 2011. “They aren’t devastating for us. But we want to stay ahead of them, and we’re trying to continue to improve yield by cutting those numbers back.”
Moses grows soybeans, cotton, corn and peanuts. The latter is the newest to their crop rotation. He also consults with Southern Ag Consulting, which represents various crops, including peanuts, in the Mississippi region.
Moses plans to keep a similar wormcontrol strategy for 2012, which includes Belt insecticide.
“Once Belt went out, we didn’t see any of them,” Moses said of the various caterpillars. “We felt like it knocked out multiple pests and saw less damage all around.”
New to growing peanuts in last five years, Moses also uses Belt on his soybean acres for bollworm and loopers. Small plot work proved Belt’s potential, he said, and now it is his top choice in soybeans and peanuts when he wants to treat worms.
“We’re learning from it,” he said of his cumulative approach to treatment, which will be “on more acres than not” in 2012.
“We’re planning on using Belt this season in both crops and will do more small plot work to measure yield bump more precisely in peanuts.”
Moses said he always tries to find new ways to advance yield, and he does not doubt his return on investment with Belt. “The crop is healthier at canopy. It keeps us from multiple applications for a variety of worm pests. By cutting the extra trips out, it saves time and money.”
Protect Against Pressure
Bainbridge, Ga., producer Jud Greene also sees a variety of caterpillar species in his peanuts. The past five to six years worms have been a bigger concern in peanuts, said Greene, who also grows corn and cotton. “We have constant pressure from late June until the first part of August.”
Across the Peanut Belt, heavier pressure from these yieldrobbing insects has been chalked up to insect lifecycles, pyrethroid resistance and cropping shifts and changes. Likely all play a part in the increases that farmers report.
Moses and Greene both see pyrethroid resistance in their respective regions.
“We don’t use a pyrethroid at all because they haven’t worked for 10 years,” Greene said. “It’s a waste of money.”
In addition to resistance challenges, Greene produces peanuts in a high worm pressure area known for conventional cotton and sweet corn. The past few dry weather years also increased the worm threat, he added.
“Belt will be my first choice on cotton and peanuts if we have a worm problem, and I’m sure we will,” he said.
A precursor for worm pests in peanuts could be what farmers have seen with bollworms in soybeans, which are becoming a larger threat each year in many states.
Mississippi growers treated 1,800 soybean acres for bollworms in 2006. By 2008, the number increased to 250,000 acres, and in 2010, 450,000 acres were sprayed for bollworms, according to Mississippi State University Extension.
The 1-2-3s of How Belt Works
When applied at early stages of pest infections, Belt insecticide provides long-lasting worm control of all worm pests, even resistant populations and late-stage larvae, said Lee Hall, Belt product manager, Bayer CropScience.
“Belt insecticide helps preserve your yield potential. Its powerful activity stops worm feeding within minutes and can last two weeks or more, without flaring mites and with minimal risk to beneficials.”
According to Moses and Greene, this residual control is the biggest plus of Belt.
“It has an extremely long period of protection,” Moses said. “The control held for multiple weeks in each crop. In soybeans, more than a month past the bollworm application, we had looper control.”
In 2011, Greene used Belt on his peanuts and his cotton, which does not include Bt traits. “In peanuts, we made one trip and didn’t need to treat again,” he said. “In our cotton, we usually need multiple treatments, but only needed one with Belt – one time instead of three to four times.”
Belt is registered for use in peanuts, cotton, soybeans, corn and tobacco, providing a critical IPM and resistance management tool with no known cross-resistance to any insecticide currently available on the market.
Despite their successes, both producers implement resistance management strategies to avoid overusing any one technology. “We alternate chemistries, use correct rates and get good kill,” Moses said, adding, “Intense scouting leads to wise decisions, which is the best resistance management there is.” PG
Rhea + Kaiser contributed information for this article.