As we gear up for planting this week and next there are two insect pests that need to be on our radar.
First, reports from Purdue, Penn State and elsewhere have noticed significant flights in black cutworm. This is a migrating moth that lays eggs in corn, which can cause severe cutting of the plant. Stand loss of corn is generally associated with below-ground feeding injury, which occurs below the growing point.
Although it is difficult to predict which fields will have cutworms, fields with significant ground cover and weed presence tend to be more infested.
This is not a widespread pest in Ohio, and most infestations are light if we have them–although there are usually a few fields every year that we can find heavy populations.
Preventive treatment for black cutworms is difficult, even with insecticidal seed treatments, but rescue treatments work well if needed. As we get planting and watch for corn emergence, the best management tactic will be to scout for cutting after corn emergence. More information can be found in our black cutworm fact sheet (here).
The other pest to watch out for is seedcorn maggot, which can feed on both corn and soybean.
Like black cutworm, this is a spotty pest in Ohio, but tends to be found in fields heavy in organic matter or fields with plant material that is recently tilled under (alfalfa, hay, wheat, etc.). Unlike black cutworm, seedcorn maggots are controlled quite well with insecticidal seed treatments.
Alternatively, there are a number of commercially applied insecticide seed treatments for both crops. A final option could be to delay planting at least 3-4 weeks in a field that has had green cover tilled under–by this time most maggots would have completed larval development and damage should be limited.