Mustang Max in T-Band
Another issue in obtaining a desirable plant stand has been damage from cutworms. There are a number of cutworm species that attack sunflower seedlings during emergence or in the early vegetative stage. This insect has been most abundant since the shift to reduced and no-till systems. Cutworm adults feed and lay eggs on the crop residue. Since the majority of sunflower is produced in a reduced/no-till system, the issue of cutworm damage has definitely increased.
One of the scouting recommendations is to spray a foliar insecticide when the plant population has been reduced by 25 to 30%. But for those farmers making an all-out effort to maximize yields, a stand reduction of that magnitude is simply too great. Furthermore, the damage is not uniformly spread out over the field. So damage ends up in pockets, resulting in blank spaces in the field. Those spaces often fill in with kochia and other weeds. Cutworms are not on sunflower seed treatment labels. Thus, a number of farmers are adding an insecticide to their pre-emerge herbicide application or are coming back at early emergence with a foliar insecticide application.
There is another option for 2011. Mustang Max™ (Zeta-cypermethrin), marketed by FMC, has been approved by the EPA and will be labeled for sunflower as a soil-applied insecticide. FMC has been waiting for this label for a number of years.
Sam Lockhart, technical support specialist for FMC, says Mustang Max has the unique properties of having both foliar and soil activity. The product has had good success as a soil application in controlling both wireworm and cutworm in other crops (like sugarbeets), according to Lockhart. Specifically for cutworm control, the company representative recommends a 3 to 7” T-band application, covering the opened seedbed after the disc opener but before the closing wheels.
For ease of application, FMC will provide eligible growers with a Raven™ application system with a commitment of purchasing Mustang Max insecticide over two years. The Raven nozzles fit on the seed tube of most planters and spray a 3-7” wide band over the seedbed. The system comes with all necessary equipment, such as a flow meter, pump and nozzles. The producer will need to supply the tank and is responsible for equipment installation and maintenance of the system.
The decision to consider a T-band application may depend on several factors. It will provide cutworm protection earlier, before the seedling emerges. The cutworm is killed as it enters the “banded” zone. A foliar application likely will not control that underground damage. The T-band application would eliminate another pass for those producers who do not use a pre-emerge herbicide application. There should also be a reduction in time required for scouting. The T-band uses a minimum amount of insecticide and is targeted. This is important for maintaining desirable insect populations.
Lockhart does not recommend applying the insecticide with liquid fertilizer. “That will work for wireworm control but not cutworm,” he says. “The fertilizer is ‘dribbled’ in a narrow line in the planting zone only down where the seed is planted. For cutworm control, you need a protection zone down by the seed and also up on both sides of the furrow, which the T-band provides.”
FMC-funded research at both South Dakota State University and Agro-Tech, a private research company near Velva N.D., all resulted in better plant stand and yield. A soil application of Mustang Max is another tool in a rather limited sunflower toolbox. It likely will be a good tool for those producers with a history of cutworm who are looking to improve their overall plant stand. — Larry Kleingartner
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