Cereal Leaf Beetles make homes in southern Missouri

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Local wheat farmers should scout fields for beetles regularly

The cereal leaf beetle has been spotted on both sides of the state in southern Missouri, threatening to strip the leaves of wheat and can reduce yields.

Wheat producers should scout their fields for beetles, according to Wayne Bailey, University of Missouri Extension Entomologist.

"Usually the cereal leaf beetle appears after a dry spring, but that is not the case this year," he said. "One generation of the beetle is produced each year."

He recommends checking individual fields regularly because infestation can be spotty. Severely-infested fields may look like they are frost-covered. After walking in these fields, clothing may be spotted with stains that look similar to bird droppings.

The cereal leaf beetles can damage the flag leaf that determines grain yield, according to Bailey, and can significantly reduce yields.

The threshold amount is slim, with only one larvae per stem. The larvae will stop photosynthesis in the wheat by stripping the green tissue between veins on the flag leaf that is filled with chlorophyll. Farmers can tell if their wheat has been stripped because the leaves will appear to have white striping.

Barry County averages 42 bushels per acre of wheat each year. One bushel produces 42 pounds of flour, or around 73 loaves of bread. The potential yield reduction if the beetles infest local wheat crops would severely damage the Barry County production.

To scout fields for the cereal leaf beetles, farmers should look for both larvae and adult beetles. The larvae are yellow or white with a black head and six legs. They will normally be hump-backed. They have a defense mechanism in which they may appear black due to the fecal material they throw over their back to deflect predators. Adults usually are about five milimeters long and have blue wing covers and red legs. They usually feed before winter. Larvae are a much greater threat to crops.

The best solution to a potential cereal leaf beetle infestation is to scout fields regularly, and use insecticide if the yield loss warrants cost of application and product. Bailey says farmers need to be proactive with the scouting of their fields because the threshold for the beetle is so slim.

For a list of appropriate and safe insecticides, people may visit www.ipm.missouri.edu

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