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Managing Corn Rootworm

Categories: GROWING, CORN
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  • Corn rootworm (CRW) has adapted to decades of management strategies and continues to be destructive.

  • The Agrisure Duracade® trait adds a different tool to the toolbox for CRW management.

  • Diversity in management practices is key for long-term success in managing CRW.

close up of different levels of corn rootworm feeding on corn in a field.
Figure 1. Various levels of corn rootworm feeding

Corn rootworm (CRW) is the most destructive corn pest in the U.S. and costs farmers more than $1 billion annually in reduced grain yield and control measures. Larvae feed on roots, resulting in underdeveloped root systems, reduced nutrient uptake, weak brace roots and lodged corn (Figure 1). Adult CRW beetles can also interfere with pollination by feeding on pollen and clipping silks, resulting in poor ear fill, and lay eggs in the soil that endanger future corn crops.

CRW is a difficult pest to manage, to the point that repeated use of the same single management practice will eventually end in disappointment. There is no silver bullet for CRW, but smart planning and hybrid selection are key to building a sustainable, multi-year management plan. Developing a multi-year, field-by-field CRW management plan utilizing different control methods in different years is an important part of addressing one of the most damaging insect pests to corn and ensuring hybrids reach their full yield potential. Understanding if CRW is currently present in fields through scouting or beetle trapping is an important first step in developing management plans. Once the relative risk of CRW is understood, the following management options can be considered independently or in combination as part of a multi-year integrated management plan:

Map of the geographic distribution of northern and western corn rootworm and variants across the US.
Figure 2. Geographic distribution of northern and western CRW and variants
  • Crop rotation: Rotate to non-host crops like soybeans to break up CRW’s normal lifecycle. Adapted variants of CRW, known as western CRW variant or northern CRW with extended diapause, have changed their lifecycles to overcome single-year rotation (Figure 2). Be aware if present locally and its impact on rotation effectiveness.

  • Dual mode of action CRW traits: Use different CRW traits like Agrisure Duracade® and Agrisure® 3122 trait stacks that have more than 1 CRW trait.

  • Use soil-applied insecticides like Force® 6.5G insecticide for larvae control.

  • Use foliar-applied insecticides like Warrior II with Zeon Technology® for adult beetle control to minimize silk clipping and reduce egg laying.

Three different corn roots showing damage of corn root using Agrisure Duracade.
Figure 3. CRW damage shown with 2, 1 and 0 CRW modes of action (left to right: Agrisure Duracade, single CRW event, no insect trait)

Plans should include the use of different CRW control methods in different years to help minimize the adaptation of CRW to one technology. The plan may need to change each season, depending on pressure, but having it in place gives farmers a head start.

Comparative line graph showing corn rootworm pest management over years with different products.
Graph 1. CRW root damage comparison of control methods

The Agrisure Duracade trait, the most recently registered Bacillus thuringiensis CRW trait, expresses a protein that binds differently in the gut of CRW than any other trait on the market. Additionally, it is always stacked with a second mode of action against CRW, making it a good tool for managing CRW (Figure 3). Golden Harvest® Agronomy In Action research trials have evaluated the effectiveness of Agrisure Duracade across multiple years and found that the trait demonstrated improved root protection (Graph 1) and yield (Graph 2) when used alone or in combination with soil-applied insecticides across many different pest levels.

Bar graph on corn rootworm management influence on corn yield.
Graph 2. Yield comparison of CRW control method
Bar graph showing increased corn root protection using CruiserMaxx Corn 1250.
Graph 3. Increased root protection offered with CrusierMaxx Corn 1250 seed treatment

Select Golden Harvest Agrisure Duracade hybrids are now available treated with CruiserMaxx® Corn 1250 seed treatment for additional root protection. CRW trials across 7 locations showed reduced feeding damage at most sites (Graph 3). Whether trying to protect yield or preserve effectiveness of current management practices, effectiveness of current management practices, effective CRW management will require the integration of multiple control practices, not a singular technology.

Managing Low-Pressure Corn Rootworm

If little to no previous signs of larval feeding or adult beetle populations have been observed and planting corn is selected for areas with western CRW variant, northern CRW extended diapause or corn following corn, consider using at least 1 of following management practices:

  1. Multiple mode of action CRW-traited hybrids

  2. Non-CRW-traited hybrid with Force 6.5G soil-applied insecticide

If planting first-year corn in areas where CRW has not yet been known to have adapted to corn rotation management, consider using a non-CRW-traited hybrid, such as an Agrisure 3220-traited hybrid, that provides broad-spectrum control of above-ground pests. If other soil insects are present, consider adding Force 6.5G soil-applied insecticide.

Options for Managing Heavy Corn Rootworm Pressure

  1. Crop rotation: Consider breaking up the CRW lifecycle by rotating to non-host crops, such as soybeans, in fields with a history of high CRW presence or injury.

  2. Traited corn hybrids:

    1. If NO history of root injury on traited hybrids:

      • Use hybrids with multiple CRW traits

      • Scout and consider beetle control with a foliar insecticide to minimize silk clipping and reduce female egg laying

    2. If there is a history of feeding damage to traited hybrid and unable to rotate, use combination of:

      • Hybrids with multiple CRW traits

      • Soil-applied insecticide with traits

      • Scout and consider beetle control with a foliar insecticide

      • Seed treatment insecticides

Close up of corn rootworm beetles feeding on corn silks.
Figure 4. CRW beetles feeding on silks

Long-term CRW management requires a multi-year, whole-farm approach. There is an important balance between CRW control, yield protection and resistance management. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Effective CRW management will require the integration of multiple control measures, not a singular technology.

Watch this video to hear Technical Agronomy Manager Bruce Battles discuss CRW management and the Golden Harvest Agronomy in Action research being done to help assess management practices.


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Performance assessments are based upon results or analysis of public information, field observations and/or internal Syngenta evaluations.

Product performance assumes disease presence.

© 2022 Syngenta. Important: Always read and follow label instructions. Some products may not be registered for sale or use in all states or counties. Please check with your local extension service to ensure registration status. AAtrex 4L, AAtrex Nine-O, Acuron, Agri-Flex, Agri-Mek 0.15EC, Agri-Mek SC, Avicta 500FS, Avicta Complete Beans 500, Avicta Complete Corn 250, Avicta Duo Corn, Avicta Duo 250 Corn, Avicta Duo COT202, Avicta Duo Cotton, Besiege, Bicep II Magnum, Bicep II Magnum FC, Bicep Lite II Magnum, Callisto Xtra, Cyclone SL 2.0, Denim, Endigo ZC, Endigo ZCX, Epi-Mek 0.15EC, Expert, Force, Force 3G, Force CS, Force 6.5G, Force Evo, Gramoxone SL, Gramoxone SL 2.0, Gramoxone SL 3.0, Karate, Karate with Zeon Technology, Lamcap, Lamcap II, Lamdec, Lexar EZ, Lumax EZ, Medal II ATZ, Minecto Pro, Proclaim, Tavium Plus VaporGrip Technology, Voliam Xpress and Warrior II with Zeon Technology are Restricted Use Pesticides.

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Important: Always read and follow label and bag tag instructions; only those labeled as tolerant to glufosinate may be sprayed with glufosinate ammonium-based herbicides. LibertyLink®, Liberty® and the Water Droplet logo are registered trademarks of BASF. HERCULEX® and the HERCULEX Shield are trademarks of Corteva Agriscience LLC. HERCULEX Insect Protection technology by Corteva Agriscience LLC. Under federal and local laws, only dicamba-containing herbicides registered for use on dicamba-tolerant varieties may be applied. See product labels for details and tank mix partners. Golden Harvest® and NK® soybean varieties are protected under granted or pending U.S. variety patents and other intellectual property rights, regardless of the trait(s) within the seed. The Enlist E3® soybean, LibertyLink®, LibertyLink® GT27®, Roundup Ready 2 Xtend®, Roundup Ready 2 Yield® and XtendFlex® soybean traits may be protected under numerous United States patents. It is unlawful to save soybeans containing these traits for planting or transfer to others for use as a planting seed. Only dicamba formulations that employ VaporGrip® Technology are approved for use with Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® and XtendFlex® soybeans. Only 2,4-D choline formulations with Colex-D® Technology are approved for use with Enlist E3® soybeans. The trademarks or service marks displayed or otherwise used herein are the property of a Syngenta Group Company. ENLIST E3® soybean technology is jointly developed with Corteva Agriscience LLC and M.S. Technologies, L.L.C. The ENLIST trait and ENLIST Weed Control System are technologies owned and developed by Corteva Agriscience LLC. ENLIST® and ENLIST E3® are trademarks of Corteva Agriscience LLC. GT27® is a trademark of M.S. Technologies, L.L.C. and BASF. Roundup Ready 2 Xtend®, Roundup Ready 2 Yield®, XtendFlex®, VaporGrip® and YieldGard VT Pro® are registered trademarks used under license from the Bayer Group. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. More information about Agrisure Duracade® is available at http://www.biotradestatus.com/.

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