Scouting for cutworms

Scouting for cutworms
Jun 14, 2021

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Growers could see patches of missing crops, said an agronomy specialist

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

A grower is likely to see specific damage in his or her crop fields which could indicate cutworm activity, according to an agronomy specialist.

“If cutworms are going to be an issue, often growers describe having patches of missing crop,” Keith Gabert told “We’re not hearing those stories just yet. It doesn’t mean we won’t.”

Gabert is a Central Alberta-based agronomy specialist with the Canola Council of Canada.

In addition to canola, cutworms feed on cereals, flax, sugar beets and mustard.

Potential cutworm damage could vary depending on the crop’s stage, Gabert said.

“On a little seedling the cutworm may be able to pull that whole plant down into the ground and consume it all,” he said. “So, you might find half of a cotyledon there with no real explanation. For more mature crops, farmers will see areas that are thin. If it’s cutworms, you’ll see they either travel down the row or kind of radiate out from a central area. When they run out of food, they’ll move.”

Alberta has an online tool where farmers can share cutworm activity.

To date, the Cutworm Survey Results map show four confirmed instances. One in Red Deer and three in Sturgeon.

Manitoba also keeps track of cutworm activity.

“Some damage from cutworms was reported this week from the Interlake, Central, Northwest and Southwest regions,” Manitoba Agriculture said in its June 9 crop pest update.

Identifying cutworms during the day may be challenging.

The pests burrow into the soil during hot times of the day and prefer to feed at night when temperatures have cooled off.

For this reason, it may also be beneficial to apply foliar insecticides in the evenings or at least not in the heat of the day, Gabert said.

“You want to match your insect’s characteristics with your control measures,” he said. “If you know they’re going to be out feeding at night and you can spray at night, you’ll increase your changes of control.”

Should a producer need to apply a pesticide for cutworms, he or she should be mindful of the application rules.

Some products require days to pass before an insecticide can be applied, Gabert said.

“There are some clarifications on those labels based on seed treatments,” he said. “There’s a Group 28 insecticide on the market that needs about 60 days to pass before a foliar application. So if a farmer has identified a cutworm problem they may need to consider a Group 1 or Group 3 product that is allowed to be used after a seed treatment.”

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