Uncertainties in next season’s pest predictions

Pests on plants can differ every year, but for the most part there are patterns and ways to predict was type of pest season growers can expect for each of their crops and each of its relative pests.  This is the job of many OMAFRA provincial specialists; Integrated Pest Management is a huge portion of their job title, and the University of Guelph is also heavily involved in this with its many research stations across Ontario.

As we enter the winter season and some pests go into dormancy to over winter and hit in the spring, soybean specialists in Ohio are unsure what to expect nest season as far as soybean aphid populations.  This year was very uncharacteristic to due variable weather conditions across Canada and the U.S.  The soybean aphid usually hits soybean crops in August, then flies to its over-wintering home on buckthorn plants.  This year, their flight to buckthorn was delayed due to uncharacteristic temperatures.  Also affecting the predictions was the presence of a fungal pathogen that that wiped out many of the winged aphids on buckthorn.  The research team at Ohio State University is suggesting that growers become acquainted with the aphid biology and stay on top of their scouting schedules in order to catch their arrival in the early stages.

This is a very good indication that through global climate change, the pests that we thought we could manage and predict are changing faster than we can keep up to them.  This also means that there may be new pests and diseases on the rise that could cause economic loss to crops over a growing season.  It is more important than ever for growers to be involved with scouting and learning the life cycles of pests that affect their crops.  I’m sure it is very difficult for researchers in Ohio to say that they really don’t know what will happen, because many growers depend on the advice that they provide, but the reality is that pests and diseases can change rapidly. Without further knowledge and awareness about the changes, we will not be any better off to protect crops.  Increased communication between government ministries like OMAFRA and growers associations will prove to be very beneficial in the long run to help more people manage their crops and associated pests.

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