Indiana Crop Adviser Conference
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Current and Emerging Issues in Field Crop Insect Management
Current and emerging issues in field crop insect management early in the 21st Century are both reminiscent of and quite distinct from issues in the latter half of the 20th Century. For example, there is much current emphasis on invasive species; the discovery of the soybean aphid in North America captured a lot of attention and marshaled considerable research and education efforts. However, invasive species have been a part of our pest management culture for decades. The changing status of some pests also seems like a new issue (e.g., secondary insect pests becoming more prevalent), but pest status changes constantly as farming practices change. And as in the past, distributions of some insect pests expand, bringing the threat of “new” insect pests into new areas—variant western corn rootworm, Japanese beetle, western bean cutworm. But what makes the current and emerging issues in field crop insect management so distinct from past issues is the availability of new, and in some cases, radically different tools for insect management and the issues associated with these tools. Most notable among these new tools are transgenic crops for insect control. The initial focus has been on Bt corn for control of two primary pests of corn (European corn borer and corn rootworms), and the development of future transgenic crops for insect control will hinge, in part, on the success or failure of our current transgenic crops. Modern insecticidal seed treatments with systemic activity also are a new tool for insect management. With both of these new tools comes a renewed emphasis on concerns about insect resistance and disruption of ecological balance, two of the potential negative outcomes that result from an over-reliance on insect-control products. So, the tools for insect management may change, but many of the issues remain the same. Management of the western corn rootworm will provide focus for discussion of current and emerging issues in management of field crop insects.
Professor of Agricultural Entomology