Burrower Bug Comments at NC Production Meetings Peanut Notes No. 19 2023

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At the peanut meetings a few weeks ago, I discussed burrower bug. Until this fall, I had not received any reports on this insect issue in NC in at least 15 years (Bertie county, many years ago.) This past season damage was reported in three counties that I am aware of (Bertie, Edgecombe, and Martin – and possibly Chowan.) While yields can be reduced from this soil-borne insect pests, the primary issue is quality (peanuts moving from Seg 1 to Seg 2.) You can see the damage this insect causes in the attached slide set. We don’t know how frequently this pest will be in the future. We are hopeful that it was a rare year. Generally, this pest is considered an issue in dry years in reduced tillage systems. We certainly had very dry pockets across the peanut belt in NC but we also had a record-yielding crop in the state.

About a month ago, I listened in on a webinar by Dr. Mark Abney. He is a well-respected entomologist in Georgia (at one point in his career he was an entomologist working with sweetpotato and other crops at NCSU.) I discussed key points from his webinar at the peanut meetings. The bullets are in the slides. In short, in absence of chemistry, farmers in Georgia are vulnerable to this pest. The only way to manage it is through deep tillage (moldboard plow, breaking, flushing – names for deep tillage, depending on where you are in the state.) This serves as a way to bury the insect and minimizes damage. But we don’t want to go in that direction if at all possible.

I have been wondering if we were controlling burrower bug with Lorsban applied for southern corn rootworm, especially on some of our coarse-texted soils under dry conditions (and possible reduced tillage.) We clearly have no cause and effect data, but it is interesting that we went from no damage to speak of prior to 2022, and then we had damage in three counties the year Lorsban was removed from the market place for peanuts. Clearly conjecture on my part.

Based on Mark’s work, there is no clear way of monitoring this pest, and previous crop rotation does not seem to be a consistent indicator of whether it will be an issue.

We had a very low level of damage this year. We do not recommend, at this point in time, that growers go full-scale with deep tillage. Of course, the people that had issue might think otherwise. We have gained much by transitioning away from deep tillage in NC (energy costs, time needed to perform the operation, impacts on soil structure, wind and soil erosion, wet soil in the fall for harvesting, etc.)

We will keep working towards a solution. I am comforted that the University of Georgia has an outstanding entomologist working on this. They have big issues with this pest. What he finds will hopefully be translatable to us in NC. Rick is a great entomologist as well, but given the very very sporadic nature of this insect, he and Brian could put out 100 trials this coming year and not have a single instance of burrower bug damage.

2023 Burrower Bug Comments