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Importance of Wheat Pests in Idaho — Results of Grower Surveys

Project BDK810

Introduction

We assessed pest concerns within the Idaho wheat industry by conducting a statewide survey of commercial wheat growers. Our objectives were two-fold: (1) to understand growers perceptions of key pest problems; (2) to determine grower attitudes about pest control tactics in wheat.

We intended that survey data help us refine research and extension programs to best match priority needs identified by the Idaho wheat industry. This survey is part of an overall effort by the University of Idaho Extension IPM Program to document use of pest management methods by key agricultural industries in Idaho

Ten University of Idaho faculty and industry specialists/experts contributed to survey questionnaire design. Using mailing lists provided by Patricia Dailey, we mailed the questionnaire to 1,000 randomly-selected people during late November 1997. Sampling scheme was stratified random, with 200 questionnaires allocated to each of the 5 wheat production districts. Follow-up postcard reminders were mailed to persons who did not return completed questionnaires with 2-3 weeks of the initial mailing. Persons who did not respond to the postcard reminder received a second copy of the questionnaire 4 weeks later.

Results herein summarize 218 completed surveys. Table 1 gives the regional breakdown of survey respondents.

Table 1: Sample-size statistics for Idaho wheat pest status survey.
Wheat Production Region No. Completed Surveys % Total Surveys
District 1 53 24%
District 2 50 23%
District 3 42 19%
District 4 33 15%
District 5 40 18%
TOTAL 218 100%

Part 1. Production System

  • Soft white winter wheat was the predominant wheat class reported by survey respondents, accounting for 43% of total wheat acres planted. Soft white winter and soft white spring wheat together were nearly 75% of total wheat acres. Hard red spring wheat was the next predominant production class. The remaining classes together accounted for about 10% total wheat production.
  • Wheat production characteristics differed among the 5 reporting districts (Table 2). Site characteristics in southwestern and south-central Idaho (District 3) were more uniform (less variable) than in the other 4 districts; virtually all reported District 3 production was soft white wheat, evenly divided between winter and spring seedings, all grown under irrigation. Production characteristics were more variable in the remaining four districts. Dryland systems predominated in Districts 1, 3 and 5. Hard red spring and winter wheats together were the major production class in District 5 (southeast Idaho).

Table 2: Wheat production characteristics by district.

DISTRICT 1 DISTRICT 2 DISTRICT 3 DISTRICT 4 DISTRICT 5
WHEAT CLASS          
soft white spring 28% 19% 50% 49% 19%
soft white winter 53% 64% 48% 15% 21%
hard red spring 14% 7% 0% 27% 30%
hard red winter 1% 0% 0% 5% 25%
hard white spring 1% 1% 2% 5% 3%
durum wheat 0% 1% 0% 0% 2%
club wheat 3% 6% 0% 0% 0%
IRRIGATION PRACTICES
irrigated 2% 37% 100% 90% 40%
not irrigated 98% 63% 0% 10% 60%
ANNUAL ACRES FARMED
all crops 1212 acres 905 acres 897 acres 978 acres 1584 acres
soft white spring wheat (rank)* 2.1 1.6 2.1 2.7 2.1
soft white winter wheat (rank)* 3.2 2.9 2.1 2.3 2.4

*NOTE: Numeric ranks for wheat acres are 1=no acres, 2=up to 249 acres, 3=250 to 499 acres

Part 2. Grower Perceptions of Wheat Pest Problems

  • Growers ranked weeds as their most serious pest problem in wheat (Table 3). Over 40% of producers statewide scored weeds as a "serious" problem, while only 10% said weeds were "not a problem."
  • Diseases and insects comprised a less-serious second-tier of pest problems (Table 3). Approximately 10% of wheat producers rated these pests as "serious."
  • The majority of wheat producers ranked nematodes and rodents as non-problems, though there was a higher degree of uncertainty about the importance of nematode problems than for any other pest group (Table 3).

Table 3: Statewide pest concern (% growers responding).
Pest "Not a problem" "Moderate problem" "Moderate problem" "Unsure"
diseases 41% 46% 10% 3%
nematodes  76% 8% 1% 15%
weeds 10% 48% 43% 0%
insects 37% 48% 13% 2%
rodents 65% 26% 4% 4%
  • Individual pests considered "serious" by more than 10% of growers statewide were as follows (Table 4): #1 quackgrass, #2 annual grasses, #3 perennial broadleaves, #4 annual broadleaves, #5 aphids.
Table 4: Statewide pest concerns (% growers ranking pests as "serious").
WEEDS  
quackgrass 43%
annual grasses 40%
perennial broadleaves 38%
annual broadleaves 23%
herbicide-resistant weeds 7%
INSECTS
aphids 10%
Hessian fly 4%
cereal leaf beetle 2%
cutworms 2%
wireworms 1%
DISEASES
rusts 8%
Cephalosporium stripe 6%
root diseases 6%
strawbreaker foot rot 4%
barley yellow dwarf 3%
common bunt 2%
wheat streak mosaic 1%
powdery mildew <1%
black chaff <<1%
  • Perceived pest problems varied by production region across Idaho (Table 5).
  • District 1 producers (northern Idaho) ranked disease, insect and weed problems as more serious than overall state average survey values (Table 5).
  • District 3 producers (SW and SC Idaho) ranked their weed problems as less serious than statewide average survey values (Table 5).
  • District 3 was the only region where rodents are considered a serious problem; 16% of growers ranked rodents as "serious," four-fold the overall statewide average survey value (Table 5).
  • District 5 producers (SE Idaho) ranked insect problems as more serious than overall statewide average survey values (Table 5).
  • Regional pest concerns in Districts 2 and 4 fell within statewide average survey norms.

Table 5: Regional pest concerns that differed by at least 10 percentage points from statewide average rankings. "District" and "state" values are % growers who reported problem as "serious."
DISTRICT PEST district ranking state ave.
1 diseases 27% 10%
insects 28% 13%
weeds 58% 43%
2 --- --- ---
3 weeds 28% 43%
rodents 16% 4%
4 --- --- ---
5 insects 27% 13%

NOTE: --- indicates that district response differed by less than 10% from state average response.

Part 3A. Grower Attitudes about Pest Control Tactics

  • By a 6 to 1 statewide ratio, wheat producers said they needed more pest control alternatives to traditional chemical pesticides (Table 6). Interest is highest in pest-resistant varieties and cultural methods of pest control.
  • Although the majority of growers said they needed more conventional pesticides for wheat pests (particularly weeds), an even larger percentage of growers wanted least-toxic biorational pesticides as well as pest scouting tools and decision aids (Table 7) for wheat pest control.

Table 6: Attitudes about alternatives to pesticides. Responses are % growers who "agreed" or "disagreed" with the statement "Wheat producers need more. . ."
"Wheat producers need more. . ." agree disagree
Alternatives to pesticides 63% 10%
    esp. for diseases 61% 10%
    esp. for insects 58% 12%
    esp. for weeds 68% 14%
    esp. for nematodes 34% 8%
Pest-resistant varieties 81% 4%
Cultural pest controls (tillage & residue management) 80% 6%
Long-term rotations for pest control 73% 7%
Genetically-engineered varieties 66% 5%
Biological controls 57% 7%

Not shown: % unsure


Table 7: Attitudes about pesticides and related IPM tools. Responses are % growers who "agreed" or "disagreed" with the statement "Wheat producers need more. . ."
"Wheat producers need more. . ." agree disagree
Conventional chemical pesticides 54% 14%
    esp. for diseases 49% 12%
    esp. for insects 50% 13%
    esp. for weeds 63% 14%
    esp. for nematodes 24% 12%
"Least-toxic" biorational pesticides 75% 8%
Pest scouting & detection tools 74% 5%
Improved application technology 73% 7%
Economic thresholds 65% 5%
Pest forecasts 60% 10%
Precision ag tools for pest control 57% 7%

Not shown: % unsure

Part 3B. Grower Attitudes About Educational Programs

  • Wheat growers preferred "high-touch" educational outreach methods to "high-tech" methods (Table 8).

Table 8: Attitudes about educational programming methods. Responses are % growers who "agreed" or "disagreed" with the statement "Wheat producers need more. . ."
"Wheat producers need more. . ." agree disagree
Computer software to help with pest control 31% 25%
Web pages about wheat pest 38% 19%
On-farm demonstrations about pest control 69% 9%
Hands-on training sessions about wheat pests 77% 6%
Printed production manuals & extension bulletins 82% 5%

Not shown: % unsure


Part 4. Concluding (Precautionary) Notes About These Data

  • Survey sample size is relatively small, particularly for data summarized by individual production districts; however, production system characteristics (PART 1) suggest our sample population of growers is in fact representative of Idaho wheat producers.
  • Data here is growers subjective perceptions of pest importance and not necessarily an objective measure of actual economic impact; nonetheless, grower beliefs about pest status and attitudes about pest control needs are critical if we are to conduct research and extension programs that fit the way farmers produce wheat in Idaho.

Edward Bechinski

Emeritus Professor

Ed Bechinski

Ag Science, Room 236

111-111-5972

[email protected]

Contact Us

Integrated Pest Management

Mailing Address:
University of Idaho Boise
322 E Front St, Suite 180
Boise, ID 83702

Phone: 111-364-4046

Fax: 111-364-4035

Email: [email protected]

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