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Insect Control Strategies and Dealing with Insecticide Resistance

How to resist insect resistance

Insect control faces resistance problems, just as disease and weed controls do. Growers who use the same mode of action repeatedly will find their insecticides ineffective after a time.

Fortunately, say Extension specialists, there are steps you can take in order to minimize and avoid resistance. Once you introduce these measures in your regular routine, problems with insect-resistant pests should diminish—along with damage to your crops.

How It Happens

Insecticide resistance occurs when an insect population is exposed to the same active ingredient over and over again. Phillip Roberts, Professor and Extension Entomologist at the University of Georgia, says when this happens, the small percentage of the population not affected by the chemical reproduces and eventually takes over. "When the mode of action remains the same, you control the susceptible ones but leave the resistant ones, who become the resulting population," Roberts explains.

Stay Informed

To limit resistance, avoid spraying more than necessary. With regular scouting, growers can spot and treat issues before they become bigger, hard-to-treat problems that require more chemical applications. Joanne Whalen, Extension IPM Specialist at the University of Delaware, explains the importance of scouting. "When dealing with caterpillars, for example, smaller larvae are often more susceptible to treatment compared to larger larvae. Whalen says.

Make It Count

When you do need to spray, make sure its effective by using different modes of action, or chemical combinations. Changing up modes of action each year might work for disease and weed control, but insect control is different. Insect resistance doesn't depend on the season—it depends on the pest.

To determine when to alternate your mode of action, look to the life cycle of the insect. "You don't want to expose multiple generations to the same pesticides," Roberts says. "Instead, you should rotate different classes of chemistry between generations."

Integrated Pest Management

Employing Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, can also reduce the effects felt by resistance. IPM employs a number of different methods to treat for pests along with spraying chemicals.

For example, one part of IPM involves crop rotation. "Crop rotation to a nonhost crop can reduce the need for an insecticide treatment resulting in a reduction in the ratio of resistant to susceptible individuals in the population," Whalen explains.

Other aspects of IPM are also beneficial in reducing the impact of resistance. "Practicing IPM helps avoid disrupting natural controls, as well as minimizing input costs," Roberts states.

Stay on Track

Treating resistance for weeds or disease might require steps that don't necessarily work for insect resistance. "Make sure to differentiate between strategies of one pest group versus another," Whalen advises.

In addition, be sure to select proper application methods and rates when treating for insect pests, Whalen says.

For more information on insect resistance, please consult your local Southern States professional or local agronomist.

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