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Hessian fly remains a threat to Southern wheat growers

June 20, 2016

Hessian fly pupa

SOUTHERN GREAT PLAINS: Hessian fly continues to be a persistent threat to wheat growers in Oklahoma and Texas. According to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, over 70 counties in Texas have reported Hessian fly infestations. Hessian fly can impact wheat yields through stunted tillers, lodging and even plant death in severe cases.

The recent outbreaks of Hessian fly are likely due to mild winter conditions, which is ideal for high overwintering survival of Hessian fly. Additionally, the abundance of volunteer wheat due to high rainfall serves as a perfect host for these pests.

During the larval stage, which usually occurs in the fall, maggots get underneath leaf sheathes near the crowns and feed on the plant by sucking the sap. This feeding process stunts the crop and subjects it to winter kill. To identify a Hessian fly problem, look for the following indicators:

  • Areas of poor stand or stunted plants after a frost
  • Eggs that are laid in lines of 10 or 12 in grooves on the upper side of leaves
  • Pupae that resemble flaxseed found by pulling back the sheaths of the leaves
  • Poorly filled heads causing lodged straw due to maggots in the late spring

A number of solutions can protect yields from the damages of Hessian fly. By planting a certified wheat seed variety with tolerance to Hessian fly, such as AgriPro® brand winter wheat variety SY Flint (new to growers for the 2016-2017 season), is one effective solution.

Utilizing a seed treatment, such as CruiserMaxx® Vibrance® Cereals insecticide/fungicide, provides immediate protection against early-season insects and controls Hessian fly by killing the larvae that would feed on emerging plants.

Be sure to regularly scout fields to track the presence of Hessian fly and other insect pests in your fields so you can continue to grow more wheat.

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