Farmers need to take control of crop pest management

By Dan Martens, Extension Educator

University of Minnesota Agronomy staff conducted an agronomy update for farm agronomy advisers at several sites around Minnesota recently.

One of the themes through discussions on insects, weeds, crop diseases and fertilizer was that some things in the crop production arena are getting kind of shaky these days. Farmers need to have good observation skills and to be good students of their own fields, available tools and practices from year to year in an effort to “take control” of the situation or weeds, insects and plant disease will gain the upper hand. Some crop markets and production budgets are also looking less favorable this year, so far.

There are issues with insect resistance to some pesticide products including genetic traits for controlling corn rootworm. Stacked traits might buy a few more years, but in the end the insects are staged to win by way of their own genetic diversity.

Weed resistance to glyphosate herbicides, like we have seen with other products over time, will continue to become more of a problem and complicate herbicide weed control efforts. Diversity with products and cultural production practices are important.

I had a couple of calls late in the summer and fall about spots in soybean fields where the crop looked black. Extension plant pathologist Dean Malvick talked about two soybean diseases that might result in patches of plants that looked black. One is Charcoal Rot and one is Pod and Stem Blight. Both are favored by warm, dry conditions – which we had in some areas last summer. There might be some variety resistance and not much else to consider for management of these.

Following soybeans with soybeans increases the risk of developing inoculum for plant disease in the soil. An aggressive crop rotation reduces the risk of some disease and insect problems; and can even help with weed control if it provides diversity in tillage, planting dates, harvest dates as well as weed control practices.

Current grain markets for corn and soybeans, along with the cost of production for each of these crops; have some farmers thinking about more soybean acres for 2014. That’s good where this adds to a crop rotation benefit; maybe not so good if it tempts people to plant soybeans back on soybeans. It can be good to consider other crops as well.

If markets stay favorable for some farms to plant a few more soybean acres, it’s also good to think about whether there are forward pricing opportunities for some of those soybeans that you’d want to take advantage of. The only price you can know you’ll get for a crop at harvest is the price you can take a position on now. Consider crop insurance coverage and other strategies to protect against the risk of forward pricing.


1. Remaining private pesticide applicator renewal workshops in Stearns, Benton and Morrison counties and Buffalo include:

• Thursday, Jan. 23, Elrosa, 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Bucky’s Bar

• Tuesday, Jan. 28, Little Falls, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Morrison County Government Center. Bring $5 for pizza or pack a lunch.

• Wednesday, Feb. 12, Albany, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Albany Bowling Center. Call CentraSota at 320-548-3245 to RSVP for lunch.

• Thursday, Feb. 13, Buffalo, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Wright County Courthouse.

• Friday, Feb. 21, Foley City Hall, 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

For weather related changes, call the farm information line at 1-800-232-9077. For these workshop sites you can also call Extension Educator Dan Martens office number at (320) 968-5077 if a local call to Foley or 1-800-964-4929. You can also listen for local radio station announcements.

2. The Central Minnesota Forage Workshop will be held at the Royalton American Legion Wednesday, Feb. 5.