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Wet Prairies could help some insects thrive

Western Canadian farmers should be on the lookout for a number of insect species this growing season, as the wet spring conditions may cause some populations to thrive, specialists in the three Prairie provinces said.

One insect that thrives in wetter weather, and thus could impact growers this season, is the wheat midge.

Insect specialists in all three Prairie provinces noted wheat midge is on their radar this growing season.

"Wheat midge needs some moisture to get their populations going, so if it's dry you don't see as many. But, with them, you reach a point where too much moisture can be detrimental as well," said John Gavloski, entomologist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives at Carman. There was a lot less snow in southern Alberta this winter, so the region should be drier and less prone to wheat midge problems this spring, said Scott Meers, insect management specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development at Brooks.

Another insect species that does better in wetter conditions and could impact growers early in the season is the wireworm, said Scott Hartley, provincial insect and pest management specialist with Saskatchewan's ag ministry in Regina.

Some smaller insect problems that are more localized and could arise -- mostly in Manitoba -- if conditions stay wet include sunflower midge, root maggots and the feed corn maggot, which affects corn and some pulse crops, Gavloski said.

But it will all depend on what kind of weather each region experiences this spring.

"The spring conditions are going to be the most important when it comes to which insect populations really do well," said Hartley.

Weather issues aside, each province has certain insects on its radar this year because of increasing problems in the past. Alberta, for one, will be monitor bertha armyworm populations this year.

"We're watching the outbreak that we had with bertha armyworm in central Alberta; usually it's a two- or three-year term, so expect that that will be back again," said Meers.

In both Alberta and Saskatchewan, producers should keep an eye on pea leaf weevil and cabbage seedpod weevil populations, as well as cutworms and wireworms.

Producers in Saskatchewan should also closely monitor populations of flea beetles, which may be a problem in Manitoba this growing season as well.

Manitoba will also be monitoring bertha armyworm populations; Gavloski said the best thing farmers can do is get out and scout fields early on.

"We're not anticipating any big outbreaks, but it's good to be looking for them if you had a lot of them in your area (last year)," he said.

In Manitoba, farmers should also watch for lygus bugs if they had higher populations in their area in 2012.

"Early-on"

It's important to keep economic thresholds in mind when thinking about spraying insecticides and applying seed treatments, Gavloski said.

However, some insects should be fought early on if they've caused problems in the past.

For instance, "because pea leaf weevil is an early-on pest, it's something that producers need to consider prior to seeding," said Hartley. "If there was a problem (last year) they should be looking at having a seed treatment with a pesticide registered for the pest included."

Producers who have had problems with wireworms in the past should also thinking about using a seed treatment, no matter what crop they decide to plant, he said.

-- Terryn Shiells writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting.


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