Feb. 18 webinar focuses on corn rootworm-killing nematodes

texas corn
Corn rootworms are a major problem for Texas producers. Insect-killing nematodes may offer some control — photo courtesy Texas A&M AgriLife

Insect-killing nematodes that are safe for plants but deadly to corn rootworm larvae will be the topic of a one-hour Zoom meeting starting at 9:30 a.m. CST Feb. 18 and hosted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Those planning to attend should preregister to receive a link to the meeting.

Dr. Elson Shields, a Cornell University entomologist responsible developing the persistent entomopathogenic nematode strains, will be the guest speaker. For the past four years, Shields has been conducting joint research in the Texas Panhandle with Dr. Pat Porter, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Lubbock, and Dr. Ed Bynum, retired AgriLife Extension entomologist, Amarillo.

Western corn rootworm injury can result in significant yield losses to the annual corn crop, said Dr. Jourdan Bell, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Amarillo, who is helping host the webinar. Rootworm larvae feed on the roots, which reduces the plant’s root volume and the ability of the plant to uptake water and nutrients, as well as increasing lodging.

Because of western corn rootworm resistance to Bt proteins, entomopathogenic nematodes can be used in combination with any other rootworm control practice, and on their own have been shown to provide about one node of root protection. They also provide a very good option for organic corn producers.

“We have shown that these persistent, insect-killing nematodes have the ability to lower corn root damage whether the crop is Bt or non-Bt,” Porter said. “And these nematodes persist for many years and just keep killing, even across crop rotations.”

Shields will explain how these nematodes work and why they are different from commercial nematodes that do not persist in the soil. He will also present research data from the trials near Dalhart and Roswell, New Mexico.

Texas A&M AgriLife contributed this article.

Click here to preregister

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