The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

January 11, 2014

Pest control important issue for farmers

By Roger Don Gribble, Extended Forecast
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Last month, I provided some educational programming for area agriculture producers in order for those attending to obtain their private applicators license.

Some of the discussion points were controlling pests. Pests are a large discussion point, but for the most part, pests compete for food, feed or water. They also could cause injury. Pest could spread diseases or can just be a plain annoyance.

Pest control can take on a variety of looks. To have a successful control program, you should keep pest damage to a minimum by adopting a combination of control measures. The combination of control methods you choose will depend on the kind and amount of control you need.

Remember there are natural forces that act on pests. These forces can both increase or decrease pests and act independent on your control efforts. You cannot alter the actions of natural forces. Natural forces may include climate, natural enemies, topography and food or water supplies.

Weather conditions, especially temperatures, day length and humidity affect pests’ activities and their rate of reproduction. Pests may be suppressed by rain, frost, freezing temperatures, heat, drought or other adverse weather conditions.

Some of the newest breakthroughs in pest management are the identification of natural enemies. In northwest Oklahoma, we have seen the adoptions of musk thistle weevils and salt cedar beetles, and we always look forward to seeing wasps that show up to help control greenbugs in our wheat crops.

The traditional control methods are continuing to be researched and proven. These control options include host resistance, biological control, cultural control, mechanical control, sanitation and chemical control.

Wheat breeding programs, both public and private continue to search for genetic resistance to diseases that reduce yields. The big one in Oklahoma wheat production is resistance to leaf rust. New wheat varieties like Iba and Gallagher developed by Oklahoma State University currently have the latest in genetic resistance to leaf rust.

Biological control measures in wheat production might be looked at in the control of a big weed problem, bindweed. There currently is a new find in Missouri, a bindweed mite that might be able to persist under some of the higher humidity levels that exist in Oklahoma.

Cultural control practices are used to alter the environment of a pest in crop production. Planting, growing, and harvesting practices sometimes can be manipulated to reduce pest populations. The biggest chance in northwest Oklahoma would be the use of crop rotation to alter pest populations.

The oldest control measure in Oklahoma is tillage for weeds. Tillage is a form of mechanical pest control. Tillage does not receive the attention it once did with the emergence of no-till production systems. However, tillage always will be a standard weed control practice, and to date there are no genetic resistance in weeds to a tillage pass.

Sanitation practices help suppress some pests by removing sources of food, water and shelter. Other forms of sanitation that help prevent pest spread include using pest-free seeds or plants and decontaminating equipment and other carriers of pest before allowing them to enter a pest free area.

The biggest and sometime the easiest pest control practice is the use of chemical control options. Chemical options are used to control pest activities or prevent pests from causing damage. The key thing about chemical options would be to read the label of the product you choose to control pest you are concerned with.

Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service ag educators can help you with all the pest control options that are available to you. These educators are located in each county in northwest Oklahoma. Give these folks a chance to assist you with your pest control options.

Gribble is Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service northwest area agronomist.