Prairie Dryness Increasing Pest Threat

May 21, 2021

Current dryness across large parts of Western Canada may create a whole new set of problems for producers – insects.

John Gavloski, entomologist for Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development, said canola crops are at increased risk of flea beetle damage in particular this year, simply because the dry soil conditions are limiting crop development.

“We’ve had chronically high populations in recent years and what’s making the risk even greater this year is anything that keeps the plant in the seedling stage for a prolonged period will increase the risk,” he said. “So (because of) the dry conditions we’ve been having, if the crop emerges but isn’t advancing quickly, it makes it a lot more susceptible to flea beetle feeding.”

There is also a higher-than-normal population of cutworms this season, which can feed on a wide variety of crops, Gavloski added.

James Tansey, specialist of insect and vertebrate management for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, agreed that dry conditions and delayed seeding are helping increase the insect population in farm fields.

Doug Macaulay, acting provincial entomologist for Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, urged growers to scout early and act quickly against pests. “The earlier you can take action on any insect, the better,” he said. “Smaller, younger nymphs and larvae are more susceptible and it takes less insecticide to deal with them.”

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