Insect Insights Can Help Improve Yields

Early detection and the right technologies help growers boost profit potential.

Published online: Jun 22, 2018 News Daniel Vivenzio
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Source: Syngenta Thrive

Although it’s difficult to gauge their exact toll, insects take a significant bite out of growers’ profits each year. They chew leaves, bore into plants, suck out juices and spread pathogens across millions of U.S. crop acres. 

As the 2018 season gets underway, many growers are asking, “Which insects have the greatest potential to negatively impact my bottom line?” Experts share their predictions, along with some of the key factors to consider when developing management strategies. 

2018 Watch List 

Meade McDonald has spent most of his 23-year career in agriculture seeing the damage insects can cause to crops. As a Syngenta insecticide product lead, he confers with growers, resellers and university entomologists across the country each year about the causes of and solutions for these pervasive threats. 

“When it comes to insects and the vast number of crops they affect each year, the numbers can be pretty overwhelming,” McDonald says. “That’s why Syngenta literally takes a ‘seeing is believing’ approach. By getting out in the field and talking directly with PCAs, retailers, growers and other ag professionals, we are much better equipped to not only understand the problems, but to also develop the best solutions for each farm.” Based on his experiences, McDonald believes these are the pests, by crop, that may cause growers the most concern this year: 

  • Corn: Corn rootworm (CRW)
  • Soybeans: Soybean looper and soybean aphids
  • Cotton: Cotton bollworm
  • Citrus: Citrus rust mites, citrus leafminers, Asian citrus psyllid and citrus thrips
  • Vegetables: Diamondback moth, armyworms, melonworms, cabbage loopers, whiteflies and thrips
  • Potatoes: Colorado potato beetles and potato psyllids
  • Tree nuts: Navel orangeworm, peach twig borer, spider mites and codling moth


McDonald notes that knowing which pests are the greatest threats is just the first step in the journey to protecting crops against them. Obviously, an insecticide can play a huge role in guarding crops against insect pressure and damage. But to choose the right product and develop the best insect-management strategy for their crops, he says growers need to take a close look at field history and consider other factors that make their challenges unique. 

Performance Under Pressure 

Some indicators suggest that pressure for certain insects could be greater in 2018 than in recent years. One of those pests is corn rootworm. 

“We’ve had low corn rootworm pressure for a few years now,” McDonald says. “But last summer, adult beetle trap counts in western Corn Belt states, including Iowa and Nebraska, came back at their highest levels since 2012. That’s an indication growers could see higher pressure from corn rootworm this year.”

To aid growers in the fight against the “billion-dollar bug,” Syngenta recently developed Force® Evoinsecticide, an enhanced liquid formulation with superior CRW control. After testing the formulation in 2017, grower Mike Geurts from Marshall, Minnesota, says it’s now part of his annual CRW-control program. 

“All my corn acres were treated with Force Evo last year, and I had no bug problems,” Geurts says. “We put it on to avoid problems. That’s why we use it.” 

John Koenig, Syngenta insecticide technical lead, says formulations, like Force Evo, are testaments to his company’s dedication to working with growers. “Growers have been telling us for years that they want a high-performing liquid insecticide that is compatible with a broad range of starter fertilizers and is essentially hassle-free when applying,” he says. “Force Evo has significantly improved cold tolerance and freeze-thaw performance. And we’ve yet to find a starter fertilizer it doesn’t work with.” 

Neither has Laura, Illinois, grower Bob Wieland. “Normally, I had extreme difficulty getting the starter fertilizer to run through the applicator by itself,” he says. “But the Force Evo formulation worked absolutely beautiful. It’s just a must-use insecticide, there’s no way around it.” 

Resistance Management 

As with weeds, insects are becoming resistant to certain chemistries, elevating the importance of both new mode-of-action discovery and comprehensive management strategies that will help preserve existing technologies. McDonald cites the Colorado potato beetle as a good example. 

“For years, certain modes of action have offered effective control against Colorado potato beetle, but now don’t offer the same levels of control, indicating some populations are developing resistance,” he says. “Insecticides with new modes of action, such as Minecto Pro, offer great control of neonicotinoid-resistant Colorado potato beetle.” 

Minecto® Pro insecticide combines cyantraniliprole, a second-generation diamide, and abamectin, the global standard for mite control, into one convenient premix formulation. 

“Relying on a single insecticide or a single class of chemically related insecticides as a sole method of keeping populations in check will eventually result in failure,” McDonald notes. “That’s why it’s important to rotate products with different modes of action throughout the growing season. Minecto Pro gives growers another effective tool in their toolboxes.” 

Longer Residual, Broader Spectrum 

Determining exactly when insect outbreaks are going to occur during the season is far from an exact science. At the same time, protecting crops against multiple pest populations that overlap or occur simultaneously is critical. That’s why applying a longer-residual, broader-spectrum insecticide is key, especially in vegetable and specialty crops, where visible pest damage can greatly reduce a grower’s bottom line. 

Beyond the Colorado potato beetle, Minecto Pro helps control a wide range of lepidopteran pests as well as difficult-to-control sucking insects and mites in potato, citrus, onion, pome fruit, tree nuts and vegetable crops. 

“The complementary modes of action in Minecto Pro broaden its activity spectrum and strengthen performance, when compared with other stand-alone products,” says Elijah Meck, Ph.D., technical product lead at Syngenta. “In many markets, newer products typically target a narrow pest spectrum. However, we specifically formulated Minecto Pro to deliver robust rates of both active ingredients that together will provide superior control of a large number of lepidopteran and sucking insect pests as well as mites.” 

Florida citrus growers who used Minecto Pro in 2017 say they were surprised by just how well the product worked. 

“We were impressed by the number of days it controlled mites, leafminers and psyllids,” says grower Ned Hancock from Avon Park, Florida. “We really felt like we got a big bang for our buck. Also, the overall tree health was really impressive. It was something we heard about but didn’t expect to see for ourselves.” 

The Human Touch 

Of course, choosing the right product to combat insects is just part of the solution. Growers also need hands-on service and expertise. 

Partnering with area retailers, local Syngenta sales and agronomy team members provide growers with the recommendations they need to overcome specific pest threats. In addition, Syngenta has a global network of scientists working to bring new technologies to the field. 

“Every year, we’re experimenting with new formulations that offer improved performance, added convenience and better resistance management,” McDonald says. “We’re always listening to growers’ concerns and looking for ways to make their lives a little easier.”