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How to Handle the European Corn Borer

The European Corn Borer (ECB) is seen as one of the largest economically damaging insect pests to corn (and a wide variety of other vegetable crops). It’s already been found across corn growing regions in Canada and not only causes yield reductions, but delays harvest and affects your corn’s quality. So, what exactly is the ECB and how can you ensure your crops don’t fall victim to it?

The ECB Lifecycle #

The ECB completes four life stages — egg, larva, pupa, and moth. Pupae overwinter on corn stalks, cobs, and residue and emerge in the spring as moths that then travel to mate. After mating, the ECB seeks out corn plants to leave their eggs on, preferably on the underside of the corn plants’ leaves.

ECB eggs hatch within a couple days of being laid and it’s at the larval stage where their damage begins. On corn at and past the V6 stage, the ECB larva create a windowpane, tunneling on the leaves through feeding. It’s at the later corn stage where the most damage is done through leaf feeding, stalk tunneling, kernel feeding, ear drop, tassel breakage, and shank tunnelling. You’ll now start to lose your corn yield as the plants aren’t able to transport water and nutrients to the stalks and leaves.

Management #

To tell if your crop has an ECB infestation, look for leaf-feeding damage, including pinholes and shot holes on the leaves. Also look for small larvae on the plants by pulling out and unrolling the whorl. You can look for larger larvae by splitting the stalk of the corn plant. Once done, record the number of damaged plants and the number and size of the larvae found to determine if your economic thresholds have been met — if so, an insecticide application may be warranted. In the early season, insecticide applications should be targeted for the whorl, and in the late season, be added to the ear.

You can monitor ECB moth populations through pheromone traps. This can help you to better time your scouting and insecticide applications.

You can shred your corn debris to reduce the pupa’s chance of survivability over the winter and to minimize insect pressure in the future. Other management tactics include selecting hybrids with a resistance or tolerance to ECB feeding, hybrids with increased stalk strength, or hybrids with a Bt transgenic trait.

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a naturally occurring soil bacteria that produces protein toxins specific to certain insect proteins. Bt corn hybrids have been modified to produce insecticidal proteins that help control ECB.

VT Double PRO® RIB Complete® #

Added to our portfolio for 2024 is BY Guernsey VT2P RIB of the VT Double PRO RIB Complete trait system. This trait provides dual modes of action for above-ground protection for control of the ECB, corn earworm, and fall armyworm.

RIB (refuge in bag) provides non-Bt traited plants for the insect species to feed on and survive. These susceptible pests then mate with ones developing tolerance to the Bt trait, which minimizes resistance genes developing in the insect. When it comes to grazing corn, tighter rotation, no/reduced till, and unshredded corn stalks allow for a higher survival rate of overwintering larvae. Selection of a corn hybrid with VT Double PRO RIB Complete trait is an important consideration for a silage/grazing corn grower to manage ECB.

BY Guernsey VT2P RIB offers great performance with insect resistance, featuring a white cob with high grain quality and slow drydown for silage and grazing needs. It’s an early flowering, 78-day relative maturity hybrid — 2250 grain CHU, 2150 silage CHU — with very good root and stalk strength.

To learn more about BY Guernsey VT2P RIB, click here.

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