Insecticides 2014: Insect Pressure, Solutions On The Rise

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With pest pressures significantly up throughout regions of production and environmental groups focusing on trying to restrict several active ingredients traditionally used to control such pests, the wide world of insect control is evolving, as are the products being deployed.

Still, retailers are seeing continued solid demand with insecticide sales. According to our annual
survey, 72% of CropLife 100 retailers report their insecticide sales had grown over the past year, although a small segment (6%) reported no increases from 2012. Much of that increased demand could be attributed to the weather.

“This was one of the rainiest springs ever for many parts of the country,” says Amy Asmus, co-owner of Asmus Farm Supply, Rake, IA. “And with this much water coming down and sometimes sitting in the fields, there was more insect pressures than growers have seen in many, many years. Naturally, this translated into more products being used for control.”

According to Syngenta’s Pat Steiner, head of corn portfolio, North America, several pests saw their numbers grow significantly in 2013. “Corn rootworm, we had some hot spots throughout Illinois that I would describe as ‘bad to severe’,” he says. “Earworm pressures were up in the southern Corn Belt, and then you had notable fall army worm infestations in cotton in the southern territories. In some ways pest pressures today are much more significant than what we’ve seen in the past.”

So Many Solutions

At BASF, Fastac EC received EPA registration in early 2013 and was available for use throughout the growing season. “Fastac EC insecticide is an effective new tool for growers looking to proactively manage a broad spectrum of insect pests,” says Luke Bozeman, technical market manager. “Additionally, as a pyrethroid, Fastac EC insecticide provides residual control to manage key pests in many crops.”

According to the company, the active ingredient in Fastac EC insecticide (alpha-cypermethrin) targets the nerve impulses of insects, and controls a broad-spectrum of piercing-sucking and chewing pests, including aphids, beetles and stink bugs.

Additionally, Fastac EC is an excellent tank-mix partner with Priaxor fungicide. In field trials from 2011 and 2012, soybean fields treated with Fastac EC insecticide, Priaxor fungicide and a BASF residual weed control program averaged an additional 6 bushels per acre yield increase when compared to a two-pass non-residual glyphosate-based program, claims  the company.

Bayer CropSci­ence’s Lee Hall, strategic marketing group product manager, saw much of the same as Syngenta’s Steiner when it comes to insect pressures, characterizing 2013’s corn rootworm pressure as “heavy.” Lee also says that both caterpillar and foliar insect pressures were “fairly light” this year, as were soybean aphids over the past two years.

“There are two reasons we think that led to the decrease in soybean aphids,” says Lee. “No. 1, the drought in 2012 certainly diminished populations, and No. 2, this year’s late planting date. Still, these are typically cyclical pests that run on two to three year cycles, so who knows what impact they’ll have this coming season.”

In corn, Lee says many growers found success with combinations of traditional base seed treatments as well as a higher rate of Poncho/VOTiVO.

Belt insecticide proved a good fit in southern geographies dealing with caterpillar pests, says Hall.

“Belt is very specific in targeting caterpillar pests, but it has a good Integrated Pest Management (IPM) fit in that it doesn’t disrupt beneficials or predators, and you can tank mix it with Leverage 360 or Baythroid XL to control other pests as well,” he says. “Even in a down year for caterpillars, Belt continues to expand its market reach.”

Lee also notes the invasive Kudzu bug, although a “fairly easy pest to control with pyrethroids,” has spread westward from its origin in Georgia to the Mississippi Delta. Additionally, stink bugs, both the brown marmorated and red shoulder types, continue to be an issue for the rising number of soybean growers in the Gulf region. Lee recommends Leverage 360 for “very effective control” of those pests.

For 2014, Bayer expects to receive registration on a new insecticide, Sivanto, for corn, cotton and vegetable crops. Featuring the active ingredient butenolide, from a sub-group of the neonicotinoids, Lee says the product has an excellent safety record thus far.

“Sivanto combines both excellent control of aphids and honeybee safety, so it’s a nice IPM product, and with the new EPA requirements Bayer is focused on continuing to promote bee health and this is a tool that growers can use and not have to worry about negative impact on pollinators,” he says.

Also of note is that the Baythroid XL shortage situation that popped up this past year should be alleviated in 2014. Hall says the rising global demand of pyrethroid chemistries is the main reason for the shortage, and he anticipates supply being ample going forward.

Registration Recall?

Back in May, Dow AgroSciences announced EPA approval of Transform WG in cotton and soybeans. Already approved in the Midsouth back in 2012 under a Section 18 emergency exemption, the company claimed the new product is a “fast acting insecticide from a proprietary, new class of chemistry that controls sucking and piercing insects such as aphids and fleahoppers.”

Unfortunately for Dow, however, several prominent beekeeping groups flexed their respective muscles in filing an opening brief in appeal challenging EPA approval of Transform WG’s active ingredient Sulfoxaflor, which the beekeepers claim to be “highly toxic” to honeybees, and other insect pollinators.

According to a press release, the groups argue that EPA violated the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by granting the pesticide full registration for most crops, dismissing the input from their risk assessors that the field tests were insufficient to adequately determine pollinator safety. The groups also contend that the EPA’s labeling is inadequate to mitigate the risk sulfoxaflor poses to bees, and that EPA also failed to accurately measure sulfoxaflor’s costs and benefits by ignoring the harm the pesticide causes to the beekeeping industry.

Dow fired back with a press release of its own, claiming “sulfoxaflor is less toxic to bees and less
persistent in the environment than many of the insecticides that farmers are using now. Also, contrary to claims by petitioners, sulfoxaflor is not a neonicitinoid. It’s the first member of a new class of chemistry (the sulfoximines) with a unique mode of action for insect control. Insects resistant to neonicitinoids are still controlled by sulfoxaflor.”

Dow also states it does not “expect the petition to have any impact on the registration, sale or use of sulfoxaflor products,” and it anticipates moving the chemistry into the corn market by the 2015 growing season.

FMC Corp. received registration for Capture LMR on soybeans back in March. “This label expansion will enable growers to do more to protect their soybean seed. For years, growers have had great success with Capture LFR insecticide in corn,” said Adam Prestegord, FMC agricultural products North America product manager. “Now, those same great results will transition to soybeans and provide growers with a strong in-furrow zone of protection to get their crop off to a stronger start.”

According to FMC, Capture LFR insecticide is a unique at-plant, liquid insecticide that has been proven to significantly increase corn yields. It works by eliminating soil pests before they bite and damage Bt or seed-treated crops. Without seed injury, seedlings develop truly robust root systems and strong stands that transfer more yield-producing energy.

In corn and soybeans, Hero insecticide, launched back in 2008, remains especially effective for plant health and control of 45 insects for a list of crops that is nearly as long, says the company.

“Corn and soybean growers turn to Hero for fast-acting, long-lasting control of tough foliar insects for proven performer on their acres,” says Adam Prestegord, Hero product manager for FMC. “Hero is the new-generation insecticide to help growers minimize pest pressure and increase overall potential yields.”

Reformulating For Success

At MANA, Skyraider, the company’s newest insecticide, is poised for a full commercial launch in 2014 after 2013’s limited late-spring launch, according to Dave Rummel, brand leader.

“Skyraider is a one-stop solution which has enough knockdown power to take care of standard adult pests, as well as larvae and eggs. Plus it controls mites without flaring them,” says Rummel. “It’s a multi-use product that fits in geographies spanning north to south, and is effective on kudzu and brown marmorated stinkbugs.”

Retailers will also find comfort in the company’s 30 day re-spray guarantee offer for soybeans, claims Rummel.

Additionally, MANA is doing some next-level work with formulations under its Voxien brand. Dave Downing, brand leader, describes Voxien technology as “a brand platform that brings sustainability and simplicity to the pest management arena.”

Voxien is designed to address environmental stewardship without compromising on product performance, according to MANA. Three MANA insecticides (Vulcan, ABBA Ultra and Paradigm) currently make up the Voxien portfolio, although there are plans to add more products in the future.

“What we deliver with this technology is, in many cases, an improved signal word, improved handling, easier package disposal, reduced odors, and we’re reducing our ecological footprint,” says Downing. “It’s a technology that growers have been waiting for, and are ready to embrace.”

MANA formally introduced Voxien this past October during a pest control conference in Reno, NV.

Two focuses of Voxien will provide retailers a positive story to tell concerned citizens when it comes to pest management concerns, according to Downing.

“What’s really resonates is that we’ve zeroed in on (lowering) odor, and for retailers operating near urban sprawl or other sensitive areas, that’s a great story to be able to share with the public,” he says. “Secondly, we’ve significantly reduced the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); the ability for the applicator to shed the facemask and head gear, shed  the chemical resistant apron and apply with just long sleeve clothing and rubber gloves, when we talk to  industry associations these are some of the things they want us as a manufacturer to be doing.

“Retailers are at the point where they want to be  able to point to specific steps they’ve taken to address the concerns some people are raising, and these are tangible things that they can present to the public in that regard.”

Syngenta’s Steiner says that in 2013 Agrisure Viptera provided “best in class” performance among traits for fall armyworm, and Louisiana State University researchers have officially confirmed no known resistance to the trait at this point, although Steiner cautions the company will be keeping a keen eye on that situation going forward.

Warrior II, a foliar product for corn rootworm, and Beseige in corn and cotton were the top choices among growers this past season, according to Steiner.

Force insecticide, often times combined with multiple traits such as SmartStax, Herculex and Syngenta’s Agrisure RW trait, has resulted in an average 10 bushels per acre yield increase, a situation Steiner describes as “certainly the norm.”

Agrisure RW+Duracade, meanwhile, will enjoy a full launch in 2015. Available in somewhat limited supply in 2013, Steiner describes it as a “critical tool with the highest level of corn rootworm control.”

“Duracade will not be available unless it is stacked with another trait, because we’ve got this great trait and we don’t want to lose it,” advises Steiner.

Grassi is the Assistant Editor for the CropLife Media Group, including CropLife and CropLife IRON magazines and the PrecisionAg Special Reports. He joined the staff in February 2012.
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