Wheat Pest Status February 2, 2015
It has been a lagging end to the 2014 season. Luckily pests have been fairly quiet in our area wheat allowing us to focus on finishing our cotton, corn, and sorghum harvest on the days the weather permitted us to work in the field. I received word mid-week last week that some greenbugs were heavy in wheat and were being treated in Castro and Randle County. This prompted me to make a swinging loop through Swisher, Hale, and Floyd wheat fields late last week and early this week for a general pest check. I found a healthy greenbug population that ranged from moderate in the Happy to Tulia area, light to moderate in a Plainview to Lockney line, and very light to light from Hale Center to Cotton Center. In all general areas the pest population was lower if the wheat was being grazed. There was no field that I checked in any situation this week that was near an economic level. Predators, predominantly lady beetles, were also on the increase helping to keep tabs on the pests. This is not to say that there are not some fields in the area with economic greenbug issues. Each field needs to be evaluated for its own pest population and economic situation.
Our wheat is certainly turning and flourishing behind our recent moisture events, as are the winter weeds. If they are not already, producers will be heading to the fields to address these weed problems soon. It is very tempting, especially in the current economic situation, to mix an additional pest control application to this weed control pass trying to eliminate a need for a future pest treatment. I would urge producers to get a good handle on their specific pest situation in the field before choosing this option. Making a pesticide application when one is not required at the time often creates more problems in the near and upcoming future than they ever save.
Our wheat is currently in some of its last stages before setting its head size and jointing. I estimate most fields that I checked are 3 to 7 weeks from that critical stage. While still in this immature stage, wheat can tolerate quite a bit of damage, both from weather and pests, before any damage becomes economic. Spraying for a sub-economic level of greenbugs today will not eliminate the problem, but rather reduce the greenbug population for a few weeks while killing out the predator population. The result is usually a recovering population of greenbugs, and whatever else decides to invade the field, that does become economic without predator determent at a much more critical and damage sensitive crop development stage. It has been my experience that this potential preemptive spray applied now so that a second application will not have to be made later actually causes either that second, more costly application later or, if the field is left untreated, causes the loss of profitability for the field. At the same time we do not want to miss an economic pest situation that needs to be addressed when we are making an application now anyway.
Again, I urge producers to scout their wheat fields this week to have all the information at hand before making a final decision about their near future applications.