Crop Tech Corner

Tiny Particles Could Improve Pesticides

Emily Unglesbee
By  Emily Unglesbee , DTN Staff Reporter
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An experiment to produce aphid-repelling GE wheat in the UK failed, but scientists made some promising discoveries in the process. (DTN photo by Nick Scalise)

ST. LOUIS (DTN) -- This bi-monthly column condenses the latest news in the field of crop technology, research and products.

HARNESSING THE POWER OF TINY FOR BETTER PESTICIDES

When it comes to insecticides, scientists from Louisiana State University Ag Center are thinking small -- really small. LSU researchers are using particles one thousandth the width of a human hair to improve pesticide efficacy, according to a university press release. The nano-particles are composed of a protein called zein, which comes from corn and is biodegradable. By entrapping an insecticide within the particles and applying it to soybean leaves, the scientists were able to test how they affected the adherence and release of the insecticide. After letting soybean loopers loose on leaves, they found control of the pest was extended from 14 days to 21 days when the insecticide was applied with the nano-particles. Under simulated rainfall, the nano-particles also helped the insecticide cling to the leaves better and wash off more slowly. The next research step is to determine the safety and environmental effects of the new nano-particle-insecticide mix. If it is deemed safe, the scientists think it could help growers use fewer pesticides with better results.

For more information on this study, see the LSU Ag Center press release here: http://bit.ly/….

CROPS CONTINUE NORTHERN CREEP

American seed giant DuPont Pioneer is looking to court more western Canadian producers with the opening of a new crop research facility in Lethbridge, Alberta. According to a company press release, the company is investing $35 million over five years to develop "ultra-early maturity" varieties of corn, canola and soybeans.

Growing corn for grain is a challenge in western Canada, where growers face an especially tight frost-free window. According to Canadian government statistics, the average final spring frosts in Alberta can range from mid-May to mid-June, and the first fall frosts can start as early as late August into mid-September. Nevertheless, DuPont Pioneer sees market potential in these chilly western provinces. "Area growers have expressed interest in growing more corn, and the Lethbridge research center will focus on developing ultra-early maturity corn hybrids," said Steven King, the evaluation zone lead for DuPont Pioneer Canada in the company press release.

For more information on the company's new research center, see the press release here: http://bit.ly/…. For more reading on the company's ambitions for corn production in western Canada, see this brochure: http://bit.ly/….

ROOTWORM APP ENTERS SECOND YEAR

The western corn rootworm may dwell below ground, but Monsanto wants to take these pests to the clouds -- the Apple iCloud, that is. The company's Genuity Rootworm Manager iPad app is entering its second season, with one important update. Growers can now back up the rootworm field data that the app uses to the Cloud, which will allow their data to follow them if they switch devices, rather than having to re-enter it. "It's even more user friendly now," Monsanto's technology development manager Sean Evans told DTN. "I think a lot of crop advisors and growers will realize it's a really good decision aid tool." Last year, the app was downloaded 750 times, and the company hopes the improved ease of use and the app's continued free-of-charge status will encourage more downloads this year.

Growers can enter field-level rootworm information into the Rootworm Manager app, which allows it to generate a risk assessment and pest management recommendations for that field. The app can take in a bevy of information -- the field's history of crop rotation, Bt traits used, insecticide applications, the class and mode of action of those chemicals, and any damage turned up by scouting, Evans said. Using those details, it assesses the growers' risk of rootworm damage and suggests the next appropriate management steps, from switching Bt traits to crop rotation and even moving to non-Bt hybrids combined with a soil-applied insecticide.

The Rootworm Manager app is complemented by the company's Genuity-sponsored insectforecast.com, Evans added. The website pulls together data and information on weather and wind patterns, growing degree days, insect traps, insect development growth stages and migration habits to map and predict the risk of corn earworm, Western bean cutworm, corn rootworm and soybean aphids throughout the season. Last year, more than 18,000 users accessed the site, which can be pulled up on both mobile phones and tablets, a company press release noted.

For more information on these tools, see the company's press release here: http://monsanto.info/…, the rootworm app website here: http://bit.ly/…, and insect forecasting website here: http://www.insectforecast.com.

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at emily.unglesbee@dtn.com

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(PS/SK)

Emily Unglesbee