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Competency Area 4: Management of Arthropods

PO 32. Know examples of and understand the advantages and limitations of cultural controls for arthropod crop pests.
A. Resistant varieties
B. Sanitation
C. Planting date
D. Rotation
E. Tillage
F. Harvest date

Cultural control is the generalized term for the use of agricultural practices to reduce the pest pressure on the crop. These tactics include 1) Resistant Varieties, 2) Planting Date Adjustment, 3) Crop Rotation, 4) Tillage Practices, 5) Harvest Date Adjustment, and 6) Sanitation.

A) Resistant Varieties: Most disease resistance in field crops is incorporated into the varieties through conventional breeding techniques. Selection of the best adapted varieties to a local set of pest pressures is not only a good pest management practice but good agribusiness practice. Examples of disease resistance in corn are Northern Corn Leaf Blight and stalk resistance. An example of insect resistance is the new array of Potato Leafhopper resistant alfalfa which has become available in the past decade.

B) Sanitation: Many stored grain insect infestations can be directly linked to the lack of sanitation around the grain storage facility. The simple practice of completely cleaning the grain bin of leftover grain (with associated insects) before the bin is refilled with a new load of grain eliminates many of the stored grain insect problems. In addition, the use of screening on all grain bin openings prevents the insects from entering the facility after the bin is refilled.

C) Plant Date Adjustment: This tactic involves the adjustment of the planting date to minimize pest attack. One classical example is the delay of winter wheat plant date in the fall until the threat of Hessian Fly attack is minimized. In organic production systems, the plant date of corn and soybeans can be adjusted to minimize the attack of seed corn maggot in the spring.

D) Crop Rotation: Crop rotation is a good agronomic practice which has benefits beyond pest management. In the scope of pest management, systems with continual single crop production build up pest pressure over time. For example, 1st year corn in NY never suffers economic damage from corn rootworm. In contrast, 3rd and 4th year continuous corn builds up an 85-100% probability of economically damaging levels of rootworm larval populations. Similar examples can be cited from the plant disease world. A planned rotation can reduce the pest problems in most crops.

E) Tillage Practices: A couple of tillage practices which reduce pest pressure include the use of cultivation to reduce weed pressure and the shredding of corn stalks in corn grain production to reduce the overwintering population of European Corn Borer.

F) Harvest Date Adjustment: The adjustment of harvest can be an effective tool to reduce pest pressure. For example, in alfalfa production, the accelerated harvest of first cutting alfalfa during time of alfalfa weevil feeding can prevent the economic losses from the insect feeding and prevent the cost of an insecticide treatment. Timely harvest, drying and storage can prevent the buildup of fungi molds and associated mycotoxins in grain corn.