Insecticides 2016: Out With The Old, In With The New Reality
It isn’t so much that U.S. growers will have to decide among the abundant, groundbreaking new insecticides to use in 2016 — it’s that there is a lack thereof, and they will need to potentially spend more to manage resistance issues with the existing ones, while at the same time contend with low commodity prices.
This isn’t to say there is no positive news out there. Far from it. A limited number of new insecticides show promise in filling key product voids, while the El Niño weather effect inspires hope of drought relief in specialty crop-dominated California, and prices of high-value vegetables in the Southwest remain buoyant.
In the row crop-ruled Midwest, the outlook is bleaker.
“I think it’s a very challenging situation. Everyone is concerned about what 2016 looks like,” says Joe Mares, North America Portfolio Manager of Insect Control Products at DuPont Crop Protection.
Dr. Christian Krupke, Professor of Entomology at Purdue University, says he hears from both growers and agronomists that they are taking a harder look at applying fungicide and insecticide sprays together, both prior to planting as seed treatments and in-season as foliar sprays, particularly when pest or pathogen issues can’t be documented.
“If I had to guess, given these commodity prices, you might see a little more decrease in willingness on those elective sprays. If you get a soybean outbreak, people are still going to reach for the insecticides pretty quickly, as they should when they have a population of aphids that exceeds the economic threshold of 250 aphids/plant.”
Mares says the two newest insecticides in DuPont’s portfolio, Exirel and Verimark, protect against sucking and Lepidoteran pests across the specialty vegetable market, spanning tomatoes, peppers, cucurbits, apples, citrus, and more. In places like Texas, they will give growers an additional tool particularly as last year’s weather patterns exacerbated concerns about the risks of growing high-value crops.
For Monsanto, spokesman John Combest tells CropLife® magazine that last year, Roundup Ready PLUS Weed Management Solutions evolved into Roundup Ready PLUS Crop Management Solutions, to reflect the addition of insecticide recommendations and incentives.
“For the 2016 season, Monsanto is adding FMC’s Capture LFR insecticide to the platform. Capture LFR joins FMC’s Hero insecticide and Monsanto’s own Precept insecticide as incentivized insecticides,” Combest says. Capture LFR controls seed and seedling pests such as wireworm, cutworm, grubs, armyworm, seed corn maggot, and common stalk borer. Farmers can earn $2/acre when they use the recommended rate along with a Roundup brand agricultural herbicide in corn.
At BASF, its Nealta miticide had a strong first season in 2015, says Christa Ellers-Kirk, Technical Market Manager, “and we expect to see continued growth in 2016 among almond, grape, citrus fruit, and strawberry growers. It offers a unique class of chemistry for strong knockdown power and residual control of spider mites at all life stages.” For corn and wheat growers, BASF’s Fastac insecticide offers broad-spectrum insect control.
Bayer CropScience has high hopes for the latest insecticide to emerge from its labs, Sivanto. Its active ingredient, flupyradifurone, is the first insecticide in the new butenolide chemical class (new IRAC subgroup 4D) and with its honey bee-safe profile it will add to the range of treatment options available to growers.
Originally targeted at the horticulture markets, especially citrus and vegetables, initial adoption in the 2015 launch year was strongest in sorghum and alfalfa; it is highly effective in controlling the newest pest in sorghum, the sugarcane aphid.
According to Frank Rittemann, Bayer CropScience Horticulture Product Manager, Sivanto has also quickly become one of the go-to tools of Florida growers in combating citrus greening disease Huanglongbing, which is vectored by the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP).
Throughout the season growers have access to a number of tools that effectively control ACP; however, they struggle to do so in bloom time because of the limited compounds that are registered for application in this pollinator-sensitive window. “Sivanto is a perfect fit to address growers’ need in that window,” says Rittemann. “Before, growers really didn’t have any effective options.”
Rittemann says Sivanto is set to make a much bigger impact this year following its 2015 U.S. debut, as product availability and awareness expand. The product has also been launched in Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic, and has just recently received regulatory approval from the Canadian PRMA.
In 2016, Bayer is also expanding its rollout of Velum Total, a nematicide that also provides early insect control, from Georgia to the Mid-Atlantic states, the Carolinas, and Texas. In addition, it will launch Velum Prime for nematode control in the Pacific Northwest potato and California grape markets.
As Steve Olson, Senior Product Manager with Bayer CropScience points out, insecticide development targeting corn rootworm has lagged because of the introduction of insecticide traits in the crop. “There are a few traditional insecticides that can be effectively used to control corn rootworm … (Growers) just have limited chemical tools right now because of the evolution of insecticide traits that are in that crop today.”
The most significant new product development for addressing Bt resistance Krupke sees on the horizon is RNA interference (RNAi) corn, including Monsanto’s Smart Stax Pro, which is currently in the approvals process. “When you only have two primary tools dominating the market in terms of Bt hybrids – Cry3Bb1 from Monsanto, and Cry 34/35 in Smart Stax corn and in Pioneer’s offering – it’s always good to try to have more options in the pest management toolbox in the event that one of the current approaches start to break down. I think that RNAi technology has the potential to be a big development on that front.”
Monsanto describes RNAi as a natural process cells use to turn down, or suppress the activity of specific genes. This is done through the cell’s natural ability to review RNA instructions inside the cell and then “decide” whether to process the instructions or not. As a result, the process can turn down or stop production of a specific protein, much like a dimmer on a light switch.
Some performance problems with Bt corn hybrids targeting corn rootworms have been reported, most of them in the Western Corn Belt where continuous corn predominates. Of course, there are a multitude of reasons for growing continuous corn out West. But in Krupke’s region — Indiana — he thinks it’s no coincidence that there have been no confirmed reports of Bt resistance.
“We emphasize: stick with the rotation that has been working for you. In a corn-soybean rotation, you’re going to have half as much selection pressure, half as many years in corn as your average Iowa farmer … In addition to the agronomic and economic benefits of rotation, Bt and other pest management approaches in the two crops remain more durable because there is less pressure placed on them.”
The shrinking pool of existing solutions makes it even more critical that integrated resistance management is being followed using different modes of action in a spray program, says Rittemann.