Integrated Pest Management

Since soybeans are such an important crop, farmers need to figure out how to protect their crops from pests. So what can they do to keep their plants healthy? Integrated pest management, or IPM, is the concept of bringing together a lot of different disciplines, or a lot of different information, to make the best and most responsible decision on your field. So, farmers can get information from plant pathologists, from entomologists, weed scientists, agronomists, ag engineers, climatologists and even economists and they can bring a lot of this information in, know what is out in their field and then make a decision that is going to best manage the pests that they have. There’s two steps to IPM. The first one is gathering information. I like to gather most of my information before I even get to the field. And this is where I get on the computer, look at local crop reports, look at the weather and really try to gauge what exactly I could be finding out in the field. What I have in my hands here are corn and soybean field guides produced by Iowa State University Extension. And these outline the common problems like the diseases or insects or disorders that you would find in a corn or soybean field. The second step is a little more difficult. This is where we actually walk into a field and we start doing what is called field scouting. This is where we go out, have a plan as we walk through the field, look at the crop and then really gather information on what you see and what kinds of pest problems are out there. When scouting a field, it’s important to know what a healthy plant looks like, so then you can compare it to what a sick plant looks like. It’s also important to consider the time of year. For example, if you’re scouting very early in the season you’re going to have a certain set of diseases or insects or disorders that can be problematic. Or if you’re scouting later in the season you could have a completely different set of common problems that could occur in the field. Let’s talk about using IPM to manage soybean cyst nematode, which is one of the most devastating diseases of soybeans in Iowa and really across the world. The point of management of soybean cyst nematode is to try to keep the population of the nematode as low as possible in a field or to keep the nematode out of the field completely. And so the first step in doing that is to be out and scout the field. And this is going to involve two different things, either taking soil samples, sending them to a lab and having somebody process it and look for the nematode in that soil sample or to go in and carefully pull some of the plants during the season and looking for the soybean cyst nematode cyst on the roots of those plants. Once a farmer knows he has soybean cyst nematode in his field, and this is going to be from the soil samples or going out and scouting the field, this is when he starts implementing the different management strategies. And these can include planting a soybean variety that is going to be resistant to soybean cyst nematode, planting non-host crop plants, such as corn and then also planting seed that has seed treatment on it that is going to deter the nematodes from wanting to feed on the roots. Now, if you think about IPM, remember that we also think about economics and the environment. And so, as you’re deciding which management strategy to use, often times you think about the cost, you think about how much of the nematode is in the field and then how much, how many management strategies you want to start implementing to help best manage this pest in a field. Deciding which management strategies to use, and the best time to use them, is the key to keeping plants as healthy as possible.

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