Decision support system for the control of the European corn borer in Prince Edward Island

Project Code PRR06-270

Project Lead

Steve Howatt - Atlantic AgriTech Incorporated

Objective

To develop and implement an on-farm decision support system (DSS) to aid in the optimum timing of pesticide applications for control of the European Corn Borer (ECB) in PEI potatoes

Summary of Results

The European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis) (ECB) has become established as a pest of potatoes in Prince Edward Island, and is emerging as such in New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. Tunnelling by the corn borer larvae into plant stalks can result in weakening of stems, leaving them more prone to breaking and wind damage. Plants become more stressed due to increased water and nutrient loss, and are much more vulnerable to pathogen attack.

Currently, control of this pest in potatoes is achieved through the use of chemical insecticides. Over the past few years, many growers have tended to spray most fields, often with multiple applications of insecticides, regardless of infestation levels, due to the great degree of difficulty in accurately identifying the pest stages for accurate timing of pesticide applications. This has resulted in the potential overuse of pesticides, which could result in negative impacts on the environment and human health.

The objective of this research was to evaluate a decision support system (DSS), the PLANT-Plus European Corn Borer (ECB) model, developed by Dacom Plant Service BV (Dacom) for predicting control timing for the pest in potatoes in PEI. The evaluation took into consideration the DSS accuracy and effectiveness in modelling the life cycle of the ECB populations, making it possible to determine the optimal timing of pesticide application for control of ECB in potatoes. The system is based on technology that uses weather information to predict pest development, providing participating growers with: (1) the current development stage of the ECB in their area; (2) the current and forecast weather and spraying conditions (with respect to minimizing environmental risks including runoff and drift), and (3) comments, which included the optimum time to spray. This insect control project promotes the increased adoption of alternative approaches to pest management, which saves chemicals and has a positive impact on human health and the environment.

The PLANT-Plus European Corn Borer (ECB) DSS was evaluated over two years (2006-07) by collecting and transferring weather data from nine weather stations across PEI to the PLANT-Plus databank. From this information, the PLANT-Plus system developed notices that were sent to growers three times a week during the ECB season. During the 2006 growing season, 19 growers signed up, while 156 growers received notices during the 2007 growing year.

Results from both years of this project suggested that the PLANT-Plus ECB model was very effective in predicting the optimum pesticide application timing for effective control of ECB. Overall, the model accurately predicted timing of female ECB egg laying, egg hatch and larvae mining in most regions. In conjunction with regular crop scouting, the PLANT-Plus ECB model gave farmers the added assurance that pesticide applications for control of ECB were: 1) required and 2) made at the optimum timing to achieve good control of the pest. Surveys of participating growers suggested that there was an estimated 8% reduction in number of applications in the first year of the project and up to a 35 % reduction in the second year. These reductions were partially due to the plant PLANT-Plus ECB model as growers had increased confidence regarding the accuracy of their insecticide timing. After two years, surveys of participating growers revealed that most growers (64% of those who responded to the survey) felt the information provided from the DSS was valuable in helping to determine when to apply insecticides for the control of ECB and they would use the system in the future.

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