This is a Northeast SARE Partnership grant proposal addressing prophylactic insecticide use risks and returns in soybean grown on the Delmarva Peninsula. Many farmers mix an insecticide in with applications that are already being applied to the crop, usually a vegetative stage herbicide and a reproductive stage fungicide. Even though this applications are cheap, they may not be timed in a way that will result in a yield advantage over using an IPM approach. Insecticide applications can disrupt the in-field ecology, removing natural enemies, and potentially permitting pest populations to increase. Insect pest populations can be patchy in the mid-Atlantic, therefore, to investigate the risks and returns associated with prophylactic insecticide usage, farmers and extension will partner together to treat fields with and without prophylactic insecticides, yield data will be collected and analyzed for the probability of economic return on application. Pest and beneficial insect, including pollinator abundance, will be collected during the season from each treatment area. By conducting on-farm research with field size plots and from numerous locations on Delmarva and planting windows (full season and double crop), a strong extension message about the utility or disadvantage of prophylactic insecticides can be delivered to area farmers, potentially saving input costs that affect farm and environmental sustainability.
Project objectives from proposal:
This project seeks to demonstrate under which circumstances prophylactic insecticides are or are not likely to pay for themselves in terms of yield protection in both full season and double crop soybean. It is expected that a large, field-scale data set will be a powerful tool for extension information delivery to reduce wasteful, environmentally disruptive insecticide applications. Probability analysis will demonstrate to farmers which inputs can be safely reduced or eliminated, improving their operational and environmental sustainability.