Early Season Insect Control in Sweet Corn when using Row Cover
A common technique in cold climates to speed maturity in sweet corn is to start the corn under plastic or floating row cover. Once the corn is from one to two feet tall, the plastic or row cover is removed. Because it is so much farther advanced than sweet corn planted on bare ground the crop attracts early season european corn borer (ECB). Scouting for insect damage is difficult or impossible because the larvae are deep in the plant. Over the last 3-4 years, working with two large-scale growers of row cover sweet corn, a successful technique for insect control was identified. Pheromone traps next to the fields are used to monitor early season flight patterns. At flight peaks, the grower waits 3 to 4 days, than applies an insecticide spray. After another 3-4 days, a second insecticide application, if needed, is made. No further applications are necessary. During the summer of 2004, we attempted to duplicate previous work with the two growers. Monitoring the pheromone traps, we kept waiting for a peak. The peak never came and we therefore never sprayed the row cover corm. Prior to harvest, an evaluation for insect infestation was carried out and we found very low levels of infestation, 5-6%. Both growers found this level of infestation acceptable. These growers direct market their corn and basically screen out bad corn when hand picking and when they put the corn out for purchase. This is true IPM, through monitoring insecticidal sprays were avoided.
New York State IPM Program
Agricultural IPM; Sweet Corn; Vegetables