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Cruiser® Labeled for Sunflower

Tuesday, December 9, 2003
filed under: Insects

Cruiser® seed treatment insecticide, manufactured by Syngenta, has received approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to guard against early-season insect pests on sunflowers.

The product is also registered for use on corn, cotton, sorghum, barley and wheat, as well as canola (Helix® ) offering growers an alternative to planter box, in-furrow and early-season foliar insecticide applications.

Cruiser provides systemic early-season protection in both germinating seed and young plants from damage and stand loss caused by wireworm, pale striped flea beetle, sunflower beetle, and other secondary soil pests in sunflower. Studies also indicate that sunflower seed treated with Cruiser can help improve plant stand and vigor, and may ultimately increase yield.

“Cruiser is a good insect control option for significant pests, including the sunflower beetle,” says Keith Porter, sunflower marketing specialist for Mycogen Seeds. “Our test data indicate about a 15% increase in the level of stand establishment and an average of about 2,500 to 3,000 additional plants per acre.”

Thiamethoxam, the active ingredient in Cruiser, moves systemically throughout the plant and protects against target pests through contact and stomach activity. Once absorbed through contact or feeding, Cruiser interferes with the receptors in an insect that transmit the message to feed. As a result, the insect stops feeding and the plant is protected.

Commercially applied by seed companies at a low use rate, Cruiser eliminates the labor and handling involved in applying a separate insecticide at planting, a plus for growers. It will still be important for growers to calibrate their planters prior to planting; producers should follow their planter manufacturer recommendations on talc and graphite when using treated hybrids.

Suggested price of the product is 27 cents per thousand seeds, or $5.40 per acre based on 20,000 plants per acre. Cruiser is compatible with registered seed treatment fungicides such as Apron® XL and Maxim 4FS to help control seedling diseases.

Research, Field Observations

Most crop scientists agree that Cruiser should perform well in controlling and suppressing early-season insects. Key among them are wireworms, which receive part of the blame for plant stand problems in sunflower in recent years.

“This product should pay for itself if you have a wireworm problem in sunflower,” says Janet Knodel, North Dakota State University extension crop specialist at the North Central Research Extension Center, Minot. Knodel points to the product’s effectiveness in controlling wireworms as well as seed corn maggots in plot trials there with sunflower and dry edible beans.

The availability of Cruiser as a seed treatment for sunflower is particularly important since Lindane has been phased out commercially as a seed treatment option, says Phil Glogoza, NDSU extension entomologist. “Without Lindane, we didn’t have a wireworm product available,” he says. “With Cruiser, we would expect control of early-season soil pests that attack seedlings.”

Cruiser may help suppress cutworms, but don’t expect the seed treatment to offer complete control, particularly as the young growing season progresses. “You can have cutworm problems all the way into late June,” says Knodel. The product’s residual effectiveness against cutworms may have been better if it had been labeled for a higher concentration of insecticide applied to the seed, but that also would have increased treatment price.

Knodel may conduct more trials on Cruiser next summer, particularly to gather more data on the treatment’s effectiveness on the sunflower beetle. It wouldn’t be economical to use the seed treatment solely for control of the sunflower beetle, however. “The sunflower beetle is something you can control quite well with a tank-mixed foliar spray while you’re out there spraying for weeds,” she says.

There is consensus among experts that Cruiser won’t be effective in controlling stem weevils. Scouting and control measures for stem weevils generally takes place between late June and mid July, when the seed treatment’s residual activity will have waned.

“I’m skeptical that we’ll be able to get economical control of stem weevils with Cruiser. Our trials have been limited and drought has made data analysis more difficult, but we’ve seen no difference in treatments, although the higher rate of Cruise (1 mg/seed) did have 40% less phoma black stem,” says Roger Stockton, Kansas State University extension agronomist. “But Cruiser should be effective with early-season insects that cause stand establishment problems.”

Colorado State University extension agronomist Ron Meyer agrees that Cruiser did not demonstrate control against stem weevils in plot trials this year. He points out that there were cases where Furadan didn’t perform well either, and speculates that treatment success may be subdued when moisture is limiting. He plans on plot experiments next summer to compare treatments of Cruiser and Furadan.

While Cruiser has demonstrated control of the palestriped flea beetle, dry conditions the last few years in South Dakota has made it more difficult to evaluate the yield response of controlling the palestriped flea beetle with a Cruiser seed treatment. Thus, some entomologists would like to see more data on the yield response of sunflower treated with Cruiser, to provide growers a more definitive answer as to whether yield response is significant enough to justify a seed treatment of Cruiser in sunflower for controlling the palestriped flea beetle alone.

The palestriped flea beetle has a widespread presence in the U.S., but has been a localized problem in South Dakota the past few years, causing leaf injuries in sunflower seedlings in about seven central S.D. counties. It is also known to feed on numerous field crops including potatoes and corn. In S.D., it is mainly found feeding on weeds; the reason for its recent feeding on sunflower is currently unknown.

Adults are about 3/16 of an inch long, black, with two longitudinal stripes on the back. Like any flea beetle species, the palestriped flea beetle has enlarged hind legs enabling

them to jump from plant to plant. Adults overwinter on the field under soil and plant debris. They then resume feeding in the spring of the following year. These overwintered beetles will then lay eggs in the soil near the base of host plants. Grubs feed on plant roots then transform into pupae, then adult flea beetles in the summer. There is only one generation per year.

Mike Catangui, extension entomologist at South Dakota State University, has been evaluating Cruiser’s effectiveness in controlling the palestriped flea beetle in plot trials the past two years. In 2002, the seed treatment reduced the number of flea beetles, but there was no significant yield difference between treated and untreated plots. He is still evaluating trials from 2003.

Seeing is Believing

If seeing is believing, count Bruce Due as a believer in the effectiveness of Cruiser. The Mycogen Seeds agronomist points to experimental plots this year in S.D. where it was clear Cruiser impacted both early-season insects and plant performance, just by visually observing side-by-side comparisons of treated versus untreated checks.

The plots were planted near Onida, S.D., an area which has been impacted by flea beetles in sunflower. The fact that the treated rows had less pressure from flea beetles and other early-season insects was clear; treated rows had better populations and less feeding (see photos).

As well, plots treated with Cruiser got off to a faster start and started blooming earlier than the untreated plots. “There were several plots I could see that were a full leaf stage ahead of the untreated,” he says. The faster start may be due to less insect pressure, a function of increased plant vigor, or a combination of both, he surmises.

Plot trials this year taken to harvest showed only a modest yield gain in treated versus untreated, but dry conditions may have influenced the yield results, Due says. Even so, Cruiser may have more significance in protecting against plant loss than increasing plant yield.

“In sunflower over the past few years, we’ve been battling this population problem in a number of areas, trying to figure out what’s happening. Why are we planting 22,000 plants and getting 15,000? In a lot of cases, I think this points directly back to wireworm, white grub, and cutworm activity going on. And this will sure be a good insurance policy to safeguard those populations,” says Due.

Tom Young had two experimental plots of Cruiser on his farm near Onida last year. Sunflower treated with Cruiser had a better stand, better growth, and more uniform emergence than the untreated sunflower. He sees it as a significant early-season management tool that sunflower growers didn’t have available to them before.

“You still need to scout fields for crusting and damage, but you don’t have to sit there and baby sit plants every day. You’re still going to see some insect activity. For the treatment to work, insects need to feed on the plant. But the protection is there. Last year, there were guys who couldn’t even determine what to do, because plants were being mowed off as soon as they were emerged. Well, this definitely would have had great results in those cases. Those fields probably would not have had to be replanted had they put the Cruiser on,” says Young.

Cliff Watrin, Syngenta’s technical manager for seed treatments, agrees that Cruiser will dramatically improve plant stands and reduce replants, and points to the S.D. plot trials as evidence of that. “That’s where the value is going to be,” he says. “The treatment should be factored into the overall crop equation. You’ll have the cost of the seed treatment up front, but reduced cost on the other side of planting in terms of replant and time.”

Growers should follow up with local agronomists and seed dealers to inquire about early-season pest management, and the availability of Cruiser as a seed treatment option in sunflower hybrids commercially available in 2004. – Tracy Sayler

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