Indiana Corn, Soybeans: Japanese Beetle Not as Bad as It Appears

Photo: Ric Bessin, University of Kentucky

News flash … Japanese beetle are emerging and can be seen throughout the state on corn and soybean plants. OK, not that news worthy. How about … some areas of state are seeing tremendous numbers of beetles while some areas report low populations. Again, old news, as this happens every year.

Here is a headline sure to grab attention … Japanese beetle – their presence and damage is usually perceived worse than it is. Please refer to the following treatment thresholds.

Field Corn

Japanese beetle feed on corn leaves, tassels, and silks. Generally leaf and tassel feeding can be ignored. If beetles are present and feeding on corn silks, an insecticide should be applied only if on average the silks are being cut off to less than 1/2 inch before 50% pollination has taken place. This rarely happens on a field-wide basis.

Don’t be overly excited by this pest’s tendency to clump on a few ears within an area and eat the silks down to the husks. With sufficient soil moisture, silks will grow from 1/2 to 1 inch per day during the one to two weeks of pollen shed.

Silks only need to be peeking out of the husk to receive pollen. Besides, beetles are generally attracted to silks that have already completed the fertilization process even though they are still somewhat yellow.

Check for pollen shed and silk feeding in several areas of the field, Japanese beetles tend to be present only in the outer rows of the field. Don’t be influenced by what you think you may see from windshield surveys! Get out into fields to determine beetle activity. Be sure to walk in beyond the border rows before drawing any conclusions.

Soybean:

Soybean plants have the amazing ability to withstand considerable leaf removal (defoliation) before yield is impacted. The impact of defoliation is greatest during flowering and pod fill because of the importance of leaf area to photosynthesis, and ultimately to yield.

Therefore, approximately 15% defoliation from bloom to pod fill can be tolerated before yields are economically affected. This defoliation must occur for the whole plant, not just the upper canopy.

The beetles often congregate in areas of a field where they are first attracted to weeds such as smartweed. Typically, if economic damage occurs, it is only in these areas. Therefore, spot treatments should be considered.

Don’t be overly alarmed by these bright, iridescent beetles that feed on the top canopy of the soybean plants. Consider that as they feed their defoliation allows for better sunlight penetration into the lower plant canopy!

Should controls be needed, refer to publications Corn Insect Control Recommendations or  Soybean Insect Control Recommendations for labeled products.

Field damage from Japanese beetles may concentrate around attractive weeds or fence line plants.

Field damage from Japanese beetles may concentrate around attractive weeds or fence line plants.


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