Friday, July 28, 2017

Mild winter helps Japanese beetles spread westward, threatening corn and soybean crops

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Several mild winters have Japanese beetles spread to new areas in the U.S., causing damage to crops and possibly increasing the need for pesticides. The infestation appears to be "at or near record levels in parts of the Corn Belt," Ashley Davenport reports for Farm Journal Broadcast. And Timothy Collins for The Daily Yonder reports unusually large numbers of beetles are damaging crops in western Illinois this year.

Robert Wright of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources reports the voracious beetles' "distribution has been increasing in Nebraska the last few years and they are being seen in corn and soybeans more frequently," as well as feeding on trees and shrubs. They were first identified in Nebraska only a few years ago, but have now spread across two-thirds of the state.

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The beetles, which first came to America about 100 years ago, can be found over most of the U.S., but have been slow to infest Western states. That's one reason their spread into Nebraska is worrisome. An unusually long pollination window for the state's corn this year will attract the insects and cause further damage to the crops, Davenport reports. Farmers in Nebraska and elsewhere will be obliged to use more pesticides to deal with the beetles, which will be costly and could hurt the environment. But farmers feel they have little choice, Michael Cali reports for The Associated Press. Missouri farmer Bruce Arnold told him, "If you don't spray, you lose everything."

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