Over the past two seasons, farmers across the Corn Belt have participated in an online early warning system tool to monitor above-ground pests that could threaten their corn yields.  For 2012, this sophisticated program, known as the Insect Forecast tool, has been enhanced to track another economically damaging pest – corn rootworm – as well as to offer farmers expanded online and mobile access.

Matt Kirkpatrick, Monsanto corn traits marketing manager, says farmers can now log onto the site, http://www.insectforecast.com, to learn when corn rootworm larvae are hatching in their area, allowing for better timing to scout their fields for potential root damage. The corn rootworm hatch varies by geography, but typically occurs from early to mid-June in the Corn Belt and often coincides with the first appearance of lightening bugs.

“The Insect Forecast tool this season will also continue to track the migration of two damaging above ground insects – corn earworm and western bean cutworm – that can significantly reduce yield by feeding on corn ears,” Kirkpatrick says.  “Just three damaged kernels per ear can translate into a loss of 1 bu./acre.”

Kirkpatrick adds that greater awareness about the annual corn rootworm hatch and migration patterns of corn earworm and western bean cutworm moths can help farmers minimize their impact. “This tool can help farmers make strategic decisions about better timing for pesticide applications. It can also help farmers in choosing the right traited corn hybrids to meet their specific needs.”

Farmers in the Corn Belt can sign up online to receive e-mail alerts from May through September to learn when these insects pose a risk in their areas. In 2011, more than 3,000 farmers visited the Insect Forecast site, resulting in about 5,600 total site visits throughout the growing season.  

Developed by Climatologist and Meteorologist Mike Sandstrom, the Insect Forecast tool analyzes moth trapping data and weather patterns to issue one, two and three-to-five day forecasts for corn earworm and western bean cutworm.  The corn rootworm hatch is updated weekly and is based on soil temperature and growing degree days, a measure of heat accumulation determined by local temperatures.