ISU Extension and Outreach
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Muscatine Living

By Ed Zaworski and Erin Hodgson–Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

A trained scout identifying corn root worm.

AMES, Iowa – Identifying what type of insect or plant disease is affecting your crops is a critical part in forming a response. Making the wrong decision can be costly, and may have little to no effect on the issue at hand.

To help growers improve their identification skills, plant disease and insect diagnostic specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will have displays of common insects and plant disease issues at this year’s Farm Progress Show, Aug. 30-Sept.1 in Boone.

The samples, which will be based on the current growing season, are still being determined.

Microscopes will be available and visitors can get a close-up view, while interacting with specialists who study the same insects and diseases on a daily basis.

“Every year is variable as to what we will actually see,” said Ed Zaworski, plant pathologist with the Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic at Iowa State: “Certain diseases like certain conditions, so we always talk to people about the disease triangle in plant pathology. You need three parts of a triangle to have a disease: the susceptible host, a pathogen, and an optimal environment.”

While farmers have many choices that can help prevent insect and disease issues, no system is ever foolproof. Good scouting is still key, followed by a prompt response plan when an issue is detected.

“When it comes to crop protection, you want to be proactive instead of reactive, but when something emerges, the next best thing is your response,” said Erin Hodgson, extension specialist in entomology at Iowa State. “You want to identify what’s going on, how widespread it is, and make a timely treatment that’s going to protect your yield.”

Zaworski and Hodgson will both be at the show helping producers identify plant health issues and answering questions.

Although experienced farmers usually have a basic understanding of how to identify different pests, the display will allow them to test their skills and learn more about new and emerging pests.

Hodgson said every farmer’s situation is different. Some may farm land in multiple parts of the county or state, and rely on crop consultants to diagnose plant health issues. Others do their own scouting or scout cooperatively with family members. No matter the situation or the size of the farm, it’s beneficial for everyone to know what to look for and how to accurately identify the issues affecting plant health.

This is the first year for the plant health display at the Farm Progress Show, and the specialists are excited to bring this critical component to the public’s eye.

“We’re hoping to spread the word and the expertise of what we have here at Iowa State,” said Hodgson.

Along with face-to-face time with specialists, show visitors can also learn more about extension publications related to plant health and the Crop Protection Network – a website devoted to recent publications, tools and educational resources about current crop health issues.

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