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$ How Sweet It Is $
IPM Sweet Corn Project in Henderson County
Saves Farmers Money and Reduces Insecticide Use

Introducing IPM techniques to producers is not easy. Many producers are skeptical, at best, about breaking away from traditional spray schedules-- and for good reason: One missed spray in sweet corn and their crop could be ruined. However, five producers in Henderson County, Kentucky found that for the 1999 season IPM worked well on their farm. The five sweet corn producers (a total of 40 acres) who followed the recommended IPM monitoring and spray program successfully reduced up to 3 pesticide applications that would have normally been applied, saving producers $25 to $50 an acre in chemical cost (depending upon the insecticide used), or approximately $250 to $500 in chemical and operating costs per farm (again, depending upon chemical used).

Henderson County has an established reputation as a major producer of corn in Kentucky. Besides traditional agronomic grain production, a marked increase in sweet corn production for local, fresh-vegetable markets has also resulted. Sweet corn producers include large grain farmers and small farmers that are either looking to diversify from traditional commodities like tobacco or livestock, or who are looking for value-added crops that can generate a positive cash flow.

Under the direction of Thomas Brass, Henderson County Extension Agent for Horticulture, the Kentucky Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program sponsored a demonstration program to teach producers IPM stratigies for controlling major corn pests. A survey by the Extension Service found that producers were concerned about Southwestern corn borer in field corn and Corn earworm and European corn borer in sweet corn. In addition, sweet corn producers surveyed on their spraying practices, said they sprayed according to sweet corn's stage of growth with little regard to actual pest populations. Based on this information, corn insect monitoring using scout checking insect trap IPM techniques were perfomed throughout the county. Pheromone traps were used to monitor Southwestern corn borer, European corn borer, Corn earworm and Fall armyworm. Trap counts and information obtained by scouting fields were used to help farmers determine when and if an insecticide spray was needed.

Information collected on the eight participating farms during field scouting and from trap counts was summarized and sent to producers throughout the county. Tips for scouting and recommmendations for control when thresholds were met were also included. This information was also available to producers through the farming column of the local newspaper.

The highlight of this project for many was a Sweet Corn Variety Taste Test featuring varieties from IPM plots. All spraying in the variety test plots was fulfilled using recommended IPM monitoring and target thresholds. The sweet corn variety trial allowed visitors to see firsthand the benefits of timing sprays according to pest populations.

Kentucky IPM

Original document: 23 February 2000
Last updated: 23 February 2000

Scoutcat logo courtesy of C. Ware, copyright 2000

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