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Accurate risk assessment can help with wireworm control

Growers, agronomists and advisors gathered at the Welsh Potato day in Pembrokeshire to discuss a number of key challenges, one of which was wireworm control.



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Accurate risk assesment can help reduce wireworm populations #welshpotatoday #arable

Dr Bill Parker, director of crops research at AHDB, spoke at the event about the difficulty in controlling wireworms, a pest that affects most potato crops in the UK.

 

He said: "There is no magic bullet in terms of wireworm control. Like with most aspects of potato management, its about attention to detail.

 

"The best way of getting rid of wireworm, is to not grow potatoes where you have a problem. So being able to identify problematic species is important."

 

Agriotes is the wireworm species with the most agronomic importance, as it is usually present in large numbers and causes the most damage to crops. Therefore it is important to be able to distinguish between this species and others to identify whether control is required.

 

Dr Parker said: "It is fairly easy to distinguish between Agriotes species and others. Agriotes have a pointed tail and very small legs while other wireworm species have forked tails. If the larvae do not have legs at all then it is not a wireworm."

 

Wireworms have long lifecycles and can live in the soil for up to four years. Each wireworm can be at a different stage of its lifecycle so it is crucial to apply long-term strategies to adequately control wireworm numbers.

 

"Soil tests should be done 12 to 14 months prior to planting. It is no good testing for wireworms and applying control methods in the same season," said Dr Parker.

 

Since the wireworm is primarily a grassland insect, fields that have been in grass previously are at risk of containing large numbers of the pests.

 

"Those with a particularly bad wireworm problem, should avoid long-term grass leys. It should be possible for numbers to decline if grass leys are ploughed out after the two years or less."

 

Wireworms do not like a lot of soil disturbance so ploughing can help reduce pest numbers also. Min-till systems and in particular, direct drill situations are at high risk of accumulating wireworms if not adequately controlled.

 

See also: Talking Roots with Darryl Shailes: Infrequent pests and disease causing problems

 

Dr Parker explained there are a number of different trap types that suit different farming situations, including bait trapping and pheromone trapping, but emphasised that even when adopting these methods, wireworm levels are unlikely to be reduced to below 10 per cent.

 

"Trapping wireworms and applying chemical treatments, which are becoming more restrictive, will only reduce the population but will not eradicate them.

 

"It is very difficult to use an effective control method, when the problem you are dealing with is unknown, so I would encourage farmers to soil sample in early autumn and early spring. If you can identify wireworms by simply raking through soil, you definitely have a problem.

 

"To help reduce the damage they cause if numbers are high, it is important to harvest early, as the longer you leave the crop in the ground, the more damage the wireworm will cause," said Dr Parker.

 

 

 

 


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