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Don’t Let Critters Feast on Your Corn

Categories: GROWING, CORN

You want livestock to eat the corn that grows in your fields, not ground squirrels. Unfortunately, ground squirrels oftentimes cause damage both early and late in the growing season.

Particularly pesky, you may have noticed seeds being dug up and fed upon with parts of kernels scattered around. Usually only the seed is eaten, leaving the rest of the plant behind. This may result in bare patches without any crop at all.
The 13-lined ground squirrel is a common field rodent throughout the Midwest. Named for the 13 light stripes along their backsides, they typically emerge from hibernation in late March or early April. Females typically give birth to a single litter of 7 to 10 young that are ready to hunt in cornfields by mid-June. Depending on habitat, they can range for a distance up to 10 acres.

There are several management steps that can be taken to prevent ground squirrels from consuming your seed. Culturally, you can disrupt ground squirrels’ natural habitat by deep tilling, allowing grasses and other vegetation to grow tall and dense by field edges, roadsides, earthen dams and pastures.

Several other ground squirrel control methods include:

  • Repellents: Thiram (75% contamination) is registered by the EPA as a seed treatment to reduce seed damage by thirteen-lined ground squirrels
  • Toxicants: As with other pesticides you use in your fields, make sure to carefully read instructions for ground squirrel toxicants
  • Baits: Zinc phosphide (2%) bait is registered for control of 13-lined ground squirrels. It is a cost-effective method designed for large area control
  • Fumigants: Most effective when treating small areas, burrow fumigants are recommended from mid-April to mid-June when female ground squirrels and young are present in their holes
  • Trapping: Although traps work well against squirrels, they are time-consuming to prepare and monitor, and are better suited to control low populations. The best designs for squirrels are the Conibear #110 traps or modified gopher traps.

By using one or more of these control methods, you’ll have a better chance of combining more corn come harvest. However, keep in mind that since ground squirrels help reduce crop-damaging insects, completely eliminating the field rodents isn’t the answer either. Rather, ground squirrel populations should be maintained at manageable levels. Contact your Golden Harvest Seed Advisor with questions or for additional agronomic insights.

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