Category Archives: Pest Group

Soybean Fungicide Advisory – July 19, 2019

Based on research conducted since 2014, we have developed a disease favorable day threshold for predicting when a fungicide application in soybean will be economical. The favorable day threshold is based on daily average temperature and hours of high relative humidity, and these parameters are being monitored from weather stations located at Virginia Tech Agricultural Research and Extension Centers (AREC) throughout the state. We have determined that weather conditions approximately three weeks prior to the beginning pod (R3) stage of the soybean crop are the most critical for determining if disease will impact yield and if a foliar fungicide application will be economical. Fungicide recommendations for different locations throughout Virginia can be downloaded below. To use the advisory, follow these steps:

1) Identify the weather station (AREC) closest to your field. A map of the AREC locations can be found here.

2) Download the PDF for your location below.












3) Under the “date” column, find the date that corresponds to approximately when your soybean crop has reached or will reach the R3 (beginning pod) stage).

4) In the row that corresponds to your R3 date, determine if disease risk is low, moderate, or high based on the favorable day threshold.

5) The last column indicates if a spray is recommended based on your R3 date.

Keep in mind that other risk factors also contribute to disease severity and yield loss to fungal diseases. High risk fields include those where susceptible soybean varieties are planted, there is a recent history of soybean foliar diseases, and/or rotations out of soybean are short or soybean is planted continuously over several years. If based on the soybean fungicide advisory or other factors you decide to apply a fungicide, applications are generally the most effective when applied between R3 and R4 stages (no later than R5). The most recent Soybean Fungicide Efficacy Table can be downloaded below.

Soybean Fungicide efficacy table_2019_final

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Dr. Hillary Mehl (



Corn earworm report for July 18, 2019

Very low numbers of corn earworm moths were reported by our network of black light trap operators this week. Nightly averages ranged from 0.3 to 1.0 moths. Here are this week’s numbers (trap operators listed in parentheses):

Greensville (Sara Rutherford): 0.7 per night

Hanover (Laura Maxey-Nay): 0.9 per night

Prince George-Templeton (Scott Reiter): 0.8 per night

Prince George-Disputanta (Scott Reiter): 0.5 per night

Richmond County-Warsaw (Mary Beahm): 0.3 per night

Southampton (Josh Holland): 0.3 per night

Suffolk (Sally Taylor and crew): 1.0 per night

Here is a pdf of the data table: BLT_18_Jul_2019

We will be conducting vial tests to monitor insecticide resistance in corn earworm/bollworm again this year, but so far we have only captured and tested a handful of moths.

The value of scouting for plant bugs

The entomology program recognizes the logistic difficulty in scouting. We know that you have to cover a large acreage in a limited amount of time, you manage multiple crops, and some weeks, frankly, you would rather spend the time with your family. We get it.

So, let’s chat about how to scout cotton for plant bugs, and the amount of money that it will make you, in the fewest possible bullet points:

  1. Decisions can be quick and easy – if scouting multiple locations in a field (either by quadrant or on the diagonal) results in numbers over threshold (8 per 100 sweep or 2-4 per beat sheet sample), spray the field. Likewise, if you are seeing consistently below threshold numbers, don’t spray. The only scenario where more time is warranted is when you capture near-threshold numbers in multiple spots. In this scenario, you must decide: 1) how much yield you want out of this field, 2) whether you have time to revisit this field in 3 to 5 days to scout again, and 3) how spraying right now fits into your schedule. Remember two things: 1) it always pays to spray on threshold, and 2) spraying in this hot, dry year increases your risk of secondary pests with any insecticide application. I favor treating the problem that I have and dealing with the problem that may occur, but this is entirely up to you and your operation. An additional 15 minutes of scouting may be more profitable than spraying an entire field. It’s ultimately your choice.
  2. Any sampling method works. Our data (below) from 2018 show that when you scout with a sweep net, a beat sheet, or both combined, you are profiting over not scouting at all. This is why we are distributing beat sheets free of charge at the Tidewater AREC. The companies that have paid for your beat sheets (Corteva, BASF, and FMC) agree. No one wants you to spend money unnecessarily – especially in this difficult time.

Figure 1. Comparison, in terms of lint yield, of different sampling methods for tarnished plant bug (sweep net, drop cloth, and sweep net until 2nd week of bloom combined with drop cloth after) and different thresholds (low, medium or recommended, high, and very high). Favoring the low threshold (1 per drop cloth sample) was profitable when using a drop cloth alone, but this did not make money over using a medium threshold in the combined method. Regardless, you make money if you sample and spray by any method. Not every Virginia field will experience this high pressure.




Table 1.  Net economic returns (per hectare) for threshold trial in 2018 above the untreated control. Cotton was priced at $0.77 per acre for 2018; nitrogen (32-0-0) was priced at $49.18/acre (120.0 lb/acre); bifenthrin (6.4 oz) was priced at $2.90/acre; acephate (8 oz) was priced at $3.12/acre; sulfoxaflor (2.25 oz) was priced at $13.80/acre; thiamethoxam (2 oz) was priced at $15.61/acre; chlorantraniliprole (27 oz) was priced at $26.35/acre







As always, best wishes for a profitable 2019. Please reach out to Sally or myself if you have questions or concerns. I hope that you have the opportunity to spend this weekend with the people and activities that you value most. Happy 4th y’all!

Plant bugs in cotton update

Plant bug populations have been spotty, and lower overall than this time last year (click to see map). 10% or fewer of Virginia fields need insecticide applications this week, but, unfortunately, a much higher percentage will end up treated. Before making a decision to spray without scouting consider several things:

  1. Your risk of aphids and spider mites increases, especially if it does not rain soon.
  2. Your risk of subsequent plant bug infestations increases.
  3. You spend money that you did not have to spend.

Spraying for plant bugs at or exceeding threshold will pay off. Keep in mind that sprays during flowering typically yield higher returns. These two Focus on Cotton presentations by NCSU (click here) and VT (click here) will tell you what you need to know about plant bugs in our region (follow links).

If you need help scouting, ANR agents Josh Holland (Southampton) and Elizabeth Pittman (Suffolk) will be hosting scouting clinics in July. More information coming soon. Beat sheets are available to you free of charge at these events and at the Taylor lab at the Tidewater AREC. Stop by anytime Monday through Friday 8 am – 4 pm. We are closed next Thursday and Friday.

A big thank you to FMC, BASF, and Corteva for sponsoring this round of beat sheets!!

A big thank you to Josh Holland for his help scouting this week!

Click this link for interactive map with insect density and square retention data (click points for summary data).

Plant bug spray thresholds in cotton

Early season scouting (pre-bloom cotton)

We recommend scouting for plant bugs as soon as cotton begins squaring. We encourage everyone to scout for plant bugs, especially those that saw high numbers last year. Early in the growing season (pre-bloom) we are scouting for adult plant bugs immigrating into cotton from flowering weedy hosts and other cultivated hosts nearby (corn, wheat, soybean). Plant bug adults (pictured below) are approximately 5-6mm in length (quarter inch) and can be identified by their yellowish brown body color, conspicuous “Y” shape on their scutellum or upper back, and two yellow dots on their cuneus or lower back. For pre-bloom cotton, we recommend sweep net sampling with an action spray threshold of eight plant bugs (adults and nymphs) per 100 sweeps. This can be done by conducting four to eight random 25-sweep samples throughout each field. We also recommend measuring square retention before bloom by sampling 25 random plants in each field and calculating the percentage of missing or black squares from all first positions on whole plants or the top five nodes. Consider a spray application for plant bugs if the insect threshold is reached (8 plant bugs per 100 sweeps) and square retention is below 80 percent.

Click on this video link to see sweep net sampling technique in cotton.

Plant bug pre-bloom action threshold in cotton.

Mid- to late-season scouting (flowering cotton)

For mid- to late-season scouting, when cotton is flowering, we are mainly sampling for plant bug nymphs using a black drop cloth. The action threshold for triggering sprays in flowering cotton is 2-3 plant bug nymphs and adults per drop cloth sample. For drop cloth sampling, we recommend placing the drop cloth in between two rows and vigorously beating plants onto the drop cloth. We also recommend taking at least four samples per field. 

Click on this video link to see drop cloth sampling technique in cotton.  

Plant bug action threshold in flowering cotton.

Insects often mistaken for plant bugs 

Common insects in cotton fields that are often confused with plant bugs include big-eyed bugs, aphids, and stink bug nymphs (pictured below). Big-eyed bugs head and eyes are wider than their body. Aphids are a secondary pest and are generally smaller and slower than plant bug nymphs with two tailpipes or cornicles on their lower back. Stink bug nymphs have a more shield-like body shape with three black stripes on their antennae.

Insects that are often confused with plant bugs include big-eyed bugs, aphids, and stink bug nymphs.

Economic benefits of managing plant bugs in cotton

The single most important management strategy for plant bugs in cotton is applying insecticides at the recommended action thresholds described above. The bar graph below highlights lint yield gained when applying insecticides at various thresholds (low, medium/recommended, high, very high) using sweep net only, drop cloth only, or both (as described above). We see that the highlighted recommended threshold using sweep net sampling pre-bloom and drop-cloth sampling during flowering was one of the highest yielding treatments with the highest economic returns among treatments with five or fewer spray applications. The major take-home from these data is that any scouting technique (sweep net and or drop cloth sampling) at any threshold, is going to significantly increase lint yield and economic returns when plant bug infestations are present!

Bar chart highlighting lint yield gained above the untreated control using various sampling techniques and spray thresholds for plant bugs.

Economic returns above the untreated control when properly managing cotton for plant bugs.

Section 18 Emergency Exemption approved for Virginia cotton

Virginia cotton growers can now use Transform to control tarnished plant bug in cotton in 2019 (June 1 – Oct 1). This product will allow us to rotate modes of action and reduce our dependence on acephate and pyrethroids to manage this potentially destructive pest. Transform is softer on beneficials too, but you must notify beekeepers within 1 mile of cotton fields and, if there are known hives, apply before 7am or after 7pm when cotton is flowering. Transform is applied at 1.5-2.25 oz/A. Follow all label directions and keep a copy of the label with you when applying.


Based on early sampling numbers, we will have another high pressure year. Spray test results from the Tidewater AREC (shown below) can help you chose insecticides. Neonicotinoids (Admire, Belay, Centric, Endigo) should not be used after first bloom and are less effective during this time. Diamond is a growth regulator and is more effective against nymphs. There is evidence that it suppresses adult reproduction.

The single most important thing you can do to protect cotton from plant bugs is to spray at extension recommended thresholds (8 per 100 sweeps or 2-3 per drop cloth sample). As always, the only way to know what is in your field is to scout.

Call/text/email me if you have questions.

Thrips dispersal and foliar sprays

Virginia cotton requires a thrips control product at planting to preserve yield and avoid maturity delays. This is especially true since the arrival of tarnished plant bugs. Any maturity delay early-season will likely magnify plant bug injury. Cotton planted at the end of April and first week of May has put on 1-2 true leaves. It is time to scout for thrips injury and make foliar applications when necessary.

Levels of injury to cotton seedlings rated from ‘0’ (no damage) to ‘5’ (dead terminal
or plant) from thrips. Injury at ‘2-3’ or above approximates a threshold for intervention with an
insecticide application. (Photo and caption from Kerns et al., 2018)

Using a seed treatment alone will likely require a foliar spray based on research from the Tidewater AREC. In-furrow aldicarb and in-furrow imidacloprid with a seed treatment should not need a foliar spray. Scout cotton planted with in-furrow imidacloprid alone and determine if a foliar application is necessary (often it is not – saving you time and money).

All cotton planted in Virginia is under high risk for thrips injury. NCSU prediction model shows risk increasing in later-planted cotton. This model was highly accurate in 2018.

Tips for foliar applications: Consider plant-date and growing conditions. Cotton planted late-May into warm soil may not need a foliar spray. Do not apply foliar acephate if plants are growing fast with no to minimal thrips injury. Thrips injury is likely for all cotton planted in Virginia and risk will be high until plants are no longer susceptible. The three diagrams below from the NCSU model show when seedling susceptibility declines based on planting date (May 1, May 8, May 15). The blue line on these diagrams shows you when risk for thrips injury is highest.

Spraying is most effective when the first leaf is the size of a pencil tip to a mouse ear. I recommend a 6-8 oz. rate of acephate. Several scenarios may be responsible for reduced efficacy of sprays:

1. Rain. Acephate is not a rain fast product. Consider reapplying if necessary.

2. Resistance. Acephate at 3 oz. per acre has become less effective in spray tests. Rotate to Radiant if another spray is required or use a higher rate.

3. Species composition. Tobacco thrips are most common in VA, but western flower thrips can co-infest. Acephate is less effective on this species. Rotate to Radiant if another spray is required.

As always, call/text/email me with any questions. Good luck and happy planting!

Wheat Disease Update – May 9, 2019

Fusarium head blight (FHB) risk is continuing to increase in parts of Virginia. Upcoming rain events will increase risk over the next three days (see figure below). Much of the wheat in the southern part of the state is past the vulnerable flowering stage, but wheat that is at or about to enter flowering may be at risk. Consider applying a fungicide if risk is moderate to high, especially on susceptible or moderately susceptible varieties. Fungicides should be applied at early flowering or up to one week later. Do not apply a strobilurin-containing fungicide since this can increase DON contamination. Recommended fungicides include Prosaro, Caramba, Proline, and Miravis Ace. Increased incidence and severity of leaf blotch and powdery mildew have been observed in some fields, and these fungicides will also provide control of foliar diseases.

Wheat Disease Update – May 1, 2019

There is increased risk of Fusarium head blight (FHB) in some parts of Virginia, especially near the Northern Neck and Eastern Shore of Virginia. Wheat in much of the state is flowering, and if a field is in a high risk area a fungicide application is recommended. Recommended fungicides for control of FHB and DON contamination include Caramba, Prosaro, Proline, and Miravis Ace. Do not apply a strobilurin-containing fungicide after the flag leaf stage since this has the potential to increase DON concentrations in the grain. To maximize their effectiveness, fungicides for FHB and DON control should be applied at early flowering or up to one week later. Fungicides that control FHB and DON will also control foliar diseases including powdery mildew, leaf rust, stripe rust, and leaf blotch.

Wheat varieties vary in susceptibility to FHB and DON, and this should be considered when making decisions of whether or not to apply a fungicide at flowering for FHB control. The FHB Risk Tool ( allows you to select the susceptibility of your wheat variety to determine risk. You can find information on FHB susceptibility of your wheat variety from your seed dealer or in the Virginia Cooperative Extension Small Grains publication. The FHB Risk algorithm adjusts the relative risk based on the variety susceptibility as illustrated below. For assistance with small grains disease identification or for additional management recommendations contact Dr. Hillary Mehl, Extension Plant Pathologist (

FHB risk for susceptible (S) wheat, May 1, 2019.

FHB risk for moderately resistant (MR) wheat, May 1, 2019.

Wheat Disease Update – April 25, 2019

Most of the wheat crop in Virginia is currently between flag leaf emergence and heading with some wheat close to the flowering stage. Foliar diseases including powdery mildew and leaf blotch have been observed in some fields, but overall levels of disease have been low so far. As wheat reaches the flowering stage, it is susceptible to infection with Fusarium head blight (FHB), and this is the critical stage for making fungicide applications. Currently, the risk for FHB infection is low throughout Virginia. In addition, the 3-day forecast indicates risk will remain low. FHB risk can be monitored using the Fusarium Risk Assessment Tool (
Recommended fungicides for control of FHB and DON contamination include Caramba, Prosaro, Proline, and Miravis Ace. Do not apply a strobilurin-containing fungicide after the flag leaf stage since this has the potential to increase DON concentrations in the grain. To maximize their effectiveness, fungicides for FHB and DON control should be applied at early flowering or up to one week later. Fungicides that control FHB and DON will also control foliar diseases including powdery mildew, leaf rust, stripe rust, and leaf blotch. For specific wheat disease management recommendations or assistance with disease identification, contact Dr. Hillary L. Mehl ( The 2019 Fungicide Efficacy Table for Wheat can be downloaded below.

NCERA 184 Wheat fungicide table 2019_Final