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Serving: IL
Grape colaspis adult Nick Seiter, ACES
STRIPED: Grape colaspis adults resemble bean leaf beetles in size and shape but have stripes on their backs.

Quick Take: Pest and disease planning, MRTN update

Watch diseases, pests closely in 2019. MRTN calculator gets update. NRCS easement partnership application deadline nears. Jenner Ag offers scholarships.

Keep sharp eye on diseases, pests this season

Illinois farmers planting corn and soybeans this season will want to keep a sharp eye out for pests and diseases that made headlines in 2018, according to University of Illinois crop scientists.

Tar spot reached epidemic proportions in Midwest cornfields in 2018, says Nathan Kleczewski, field crop pathologist in the Department of Crop Sciences at U of I. He says scouting will be critical, especially in areas north of Interstate 90 in Illinois, where the disease was most severe last year.

Kleczewski notes that planting corn after soybeans or into tilled fields could reduce the incidence of the disease, compared with planting into corn residue. He also emphasizes that scouting will be most important in the days and weeks approaching tasseling, when fungicides can still be effective.

“If you notice tar spot showing up prior to tasseling, a fungicide may help. There are several products with a label or 2(ee) recommendations for tar spot suppression,” he says, referring to Section 2(ee) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. “Like rusts, this is an obligate fungus, and you want to ensure that the ear leaf and leaves above are protected during the critical periods of grain fill. You do not want to chase this disease; revenge sprays will not work.”

Although tar spot was the big news in 2018, Kleczewski notes that gray leaf spot was by far the most severe and widespread disease in corn last year. He cautions that farmers should not lose sight of this disease and others that are encountered more frequently and consistently in Illinois.

Plan for pests

Nick Seiter, field crop entomologist in the University of Illinois Department of Crop Sciences, cautions farmers to keep an eye out for a pest that wreaked havoc in 2018.

“Grape colaspis is a common insect, but it only occasionally affects corn and soybean production in Illinois. However, 2018 was that rare year where ‘outbreak’ levels of infestation occurred in parts of the state, resulting in stand reductions and, in some cases, replanting of damaged areas,” he says.

Adults, which resemble bean leaf beetles, lay eggs in the soil in soybean, alfalfa and legume fields in the summer. Larvae overwinter and do the greatest damage to roots in the spring, leading to stand reduction.

Seiter says chemical control measures for grape colaspis must be applied at planting. Insecticide seed treatments have been used successfully for grape colaspis control in rice in the Southern U.S., but Seiter says there is little information to assess the effectiveness of these treatments in the Midwest.

“Because of the sporadic nature of this pest in corn and soybean, there are limited data available for at-plant control options here. Consider soil insecticides or insecticide seed treatments on fields that have a history of grape colaspis damage, referring to the label for correct use,” he says.

Seiter notes there are no viable rescue treatments for grape colaspis; instead, once damage has occurred, the only management decision is whether or not to replant.

MRTN calculator updated with 2018 trial data

The maximum return to nitrogen rate calculator by the University of Illinois recommends a rate for the maximum economic return from N for the entire state. With continuously updated research data for both the app and website, the calculator allows producers to find the maximum return to N at select prices for fertilizer and corn.

The research data that feeds the MRTN comes directly from nitrogen response curves generated from nitrogen rate trials throughout the state of Illinois every year. The trials are funded by the Nutrient Research and Education Council.

Recently, the MRTN apps for iOS and Android were updated. The MRTN now includes 2018 nitrogen rate trial data on yield response, impacting the “profitable N rate range” generated through the calculator. Both apps can be found in their respective app stores simply by searching “MRTN.” If you are using Android, you can download the most recent update here.

You can also view all 2018 N rate trial results, with yield response rates dating back to 2014.

NRCS: Easement partnership funding available

Ivan Dozier, Illinois’ state conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, has announced funding is now available for the Agricultural Land Easement program. He says the ALE program can help address development and population pressures that pose a threat to Illinois farmland.

Through use of these easements, NRCS can provide financial assistance to eligible partners. Those funds are then used to purchase agricultural land easements. These easements keep working croplands and grasslands in active, profitable agriculture production. The sign-up opportunity for Illinois’ ALE program runs through April 29.

Who can serve as an eligible partner? Entities, including state and local governments, and nongovernmental organizations that have farmland or grassland protection programs, may be eligible partners. “Agricultural easements help protect the long-term viability of our nation’s food supply. Easements prevent conversion of productive working lands to nonagricultural uses and conserve vital grazing land and pastures,” Dozier says.

Interested partners should sign up for ALE in their local NRCS office. The first funding cutoff is April 29. Interested landowners need to find a partner who is willing to assist in purchase of the easement. If they do not know of a partner, they can contact their local NRCS office to get more information about the type of partner that would hold an agricultural land easement.

Jenner Ag offers scholarships

Illinois and Indiana high school and college students aspiring for an agriculture degree will have the opportunity to achieve their goals with two scholarships from Jenner Ag.

“More students are pursuing careers in agriculture today,” says Steve Jones, president of Jenner Ag. “We want to allow those students a chance to explore and seize opportunities available to them. That’s why these scholarships were created — to ensure students can achieve their goals.”

For the ninth year, Jenner Ag is providing ag students in Illinois and Indiana support in earning their degrees with two $1,000 scholarships. Ag students in their senior year of high school up to junior year of college can apply for the chance to further their education in an agriculture program.

Applications are available online at or through any Jenner employee. They must be postmarked by June 30. Scholarships will be awarded by August.

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