ReachOut: Punching Rootworm in the Face, Again

ReachOut: Punching Rootworm in the Face, Again from Central Valley Ag on Vimeo.

Mike Zwingman

Mike Zwingman

There is rumbling in the country about switching from a rootworm traited hybrid to some other trait package in 2015 as a way of reducing input cost.  The motivation behind this decision is that we haven’t perceived value from the rootworm trait in the past few years.  But I’m going to ask you one simple question and that is this: “Do you have a good understanding about how much rootworm you have had in the last few years?”  Have you done (or had someone do their) due diligence in determining that answer?  Because if the answer is “No” or “I’m not sure”, I’d encourage you to rethink things before making that trait decision.  If the answer is that you don’t think you are getting adequate control then please pay attention to the plan below.

Let’s start with something we all know: The only good rootworm is a dead one.  They’re waspy, wiry little beasts with no respect, and their horrifying ability to adjust their life cycles and habits allows them to sidestep even the best of our interventions.  Rootworm problems are spread far and wide in past years and have brought some fields disconcertingly close to ruin.

But the reign of the rootworm ends today, friends.  I have a plan, a multi-pronged approach, in fact, that includes land, subterranean, and air assaults to sock it to these monsters from all directions.

Follow me, and we’re going to punch rootworm in the face every chance we get.  No mercy, no holds barred.  There are no Marquess of Queensbury rules here.  This is not a gentleman’s fight.


The plan is a mix of old school and new school techniques that will disrupt rootworms at every stage in their life cycle, from larvae to beetle.  It’s a little chemistry, a little practice, and some good old ag know-how.

The details of the plan depend on your system, so begin by checking out the first steps for your particular system below.  Whether you plant white or yellow corn, read on for additional options for every field and a sweet reminder of the extra TLC that will encourage your roots as they weather their scourge.

Rootworm Control Options—Choose some combination of the approaches listed here, depending on the severity of your problem:

  • Use a more potent liquid or granular insecticide.
  • Rotate into beans.
  • Plant yellow corn with multiple modes of action for rootworm control.
  • Chemigate in to control emerging larvae.

Blue BoxRegardless of whether you’re raising white or yellow corn, you can chemigate at V4-V5 (which coincides with the emergence of larvae) and bomb the daylights out of the beetles at tassel.  Both tactics will intensify your attack on rootworm by causing a major disruption in the lifecycle that allows them to perpetuate in your fields year after year.  Rootworms are relentless and given the room, they will take it.  They put a terrible strain on your plants, so caring for your plants as you make your attacks is a final and important piece of this multi-pronged strategy.  Give your roots their best shot at success by treating your plants with a product to promote root growth, like Ascend®, and by taking extra care to eliminate sidewall compaction, which essentially traps roots into a hard-walled box.  When that hard-walled box is full of rootworms also, you may as well handout napkins for the buffet.

If you’re fortunate enough to have escaped rootworm this year, then consider yourself one fortunate farmer.  But if you’ve experienced even just a mild case, don’t relax, friend.  Even one gross little insect making lunch of your crops is one too many.  Take heed.  Be merciless.