The Perfect 'Bug' Storm

Nor' east Thinkin'

Black cutworms, it seems, don't read corn product labels

Published on: June 7, 2011


We're finally into the growing season where corn product companies are looking for every prime example of their product's superiority. And when they find one, they can't wait to tell the world about it.

Last week, after an urgent email invite, I pulled into the ditch along a well-traveled highway to check out a corn plot gone wrong – or right, depending on who's looking at it. Remember, nobody wants the neighbors or anyone to see a disaster next to a road where everybody can see that something went wrong.

But Jay Grove of Shippensburg, Pa., handled it well. His corn plot had been hammered by slugs, black cutworms and quite likely flea beetles, like lightning.

Friday a week ago, the field looked fine except for a few slugs.

Between Friday night and Monday, slugs and black cutworms trashed the more vulnerable hybrids before crop protectants could be applied. The differences between Pioneer's Herculex Extra, DeKalb's VT Triple Pro and Garst Viptera were striking, down to the row.

It was a perfect season for slugs. But this was on a soybean field. Slug and cutworm damage was extensive on the Triple Pro and worse on the Herculex Extra. Both required replanting.

But a "conversation starter" was on the far end of the field. Jay had been planting the Viptera test strip and got involved in an in-cab conversation. "I started back down the field and forgot to switch hybrids."

Emerged plant populations were perfect to that point. Where he switched to a BT hybrid without strong cutworm suppression, few plants survived.

It was the luck of the farming game. Black cutworm risks are next to impossible to predict more than a week or two ahead. To find out how this situation affected Grove's future strategies, click on

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