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The tobacco budworm shown here as well as corn earworms have been found in some soybean fields in North Carolina
<p>The tobacco budworm, shown here, as well as corn earworms have been found in some soybean fields in North Carolina.</p>

Worms reported in early season North Carolina soybeans

Distinguishing between corn earworms and tobacco budworms is very difficult and requires special equipment and training. After identification, the second step is to assess the injury that the worms are causing.

There are reports of worms in early season soybeans in North Carolina, but at this point density levels aren’t a concern, according to North Carolina Extension entomologist Dominic Reisig.

After sampling numerous fields, Reisig says there are spots where corn earworm and tobacco budworm are present. In a blog posting, Reisig explained that identification is the first step if worms are present in your soybeans

“Distinguishing between corn earworm and tobacco budworm is very difficult and requires special equipment and training.  You can send samples to the NCSU Plant Disease and Insect Clinic for identification.  Some county agents have the expertise to do this, as well,” Reisig wrote.

“The second step is to assess the injury that the worms are causing.  Our threshold is triggered at 30 percent defoliation throughout the entire canopy before beans are blooming.  Our threshold of 30 percent is very conservative.  Recent research from the Midsouth confirms that we can tolerate defoliation at levels much higher than 30 percent without a yield loss.  You can rest easy with a spray at 30 percent, knowing that beans can compensate for the lost foliage later in the season.”

Reisig points out that one thing to consider is larval size.

“If you have very large larvae, they can eat more, but they may cycle out soon,” he explains. “It might be better to let this happen, rather than spray, if you are below threshold.  If there are still a lot of small or mid-sized larvae, you might need to spray if you are at, or near threshold.  We want to avoid spraying unless we really need to at this point in the season to preserve beneficials.  Fields that are sprayed at this point in the season run the risk of getting on the pesticide treadmill.  This is where we spray one pest (for example worms), flare another (more worms or spider mites), spray that pest, flare another, etc.”

Reisig stresses that once you reach threshold and know what species you have, product selection is key.

“If corn earworm is your pest, a pyrethroid should work fine early in the season.  Although corn earworm is becoming more and more tolerant of pyrethroids every year, they tend to be more susceptible early season,” he explains. “Later in the season we probably select for survivors that are more tolerant of pyrethroids.  At this point we will need to switch to more worm-specific materials.  If you have tobacco budworm, you will need to spray one of the worm-specific materials.  Good choices are Belt, Blackhawk/Tracer, Prevathon, or Steward.”


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