Managing Helicoverpa larvae in chickpea crops close to dessication and harvest.

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Over the last week or so we have received a number of enquiries about how best to manage new egg-lays, and populations of small larvae, in chickpea crops that are close to dessication and senescing.

Of most concern are crops that still have reasonable areas of green crop in them, and what the likelihood of damage is if the weather is cool and moist rather than hot and dry.

Hot, dry weather will rapidly advance a chickpea crop which means that very small and small larvae are unlikely to survive on leaves of rapidly deteriorating quality. As the pods dry they also become more resistant to damage by small to medium larvae. In summary, this means that the major source of damage in a scenesing crop is late medium and large larvae.

Therefore, the recommended approach to managing Helicoverpa populations in the later stages of a chickpea crop is to continue to monitor both number and size of larvae. If the population of medium and large larvae exceeds the economic threshold, AND the crop is still susceptible then treatment may be warranted.

The table below gives an indication of how rapidly Helicoverpa larvae will develop at this time of year.

Predicted development times for Helicoverpa larvae (Oct-Nov 2008) – Dalby
Up to 3 November the prediction uses 2008 temperatures for Dalby. Beyond 3 November, the predictions use long term average temperatures (long term averages are generally cooler and development slower).

The predictions indicate that larvae are developing from very small to medium in around 7 days and from small to medium in 3 days.

At this stage of the crop, a wait and see approach (continue checking the crop 1-2 times a week) to is recommended principally because it is difficult to predict a week or two ahead how fast a crop will dry down, and what the Helicoverpa population will be whilst the crop is still susceptible. The alternative approach is to treat above threshold populations of small larvae when they are detected. This approach is likely to result in treatment of fields that subsequently would not have been at risk of damage, particularly if the crop dries faster, or larval mortality is higher than expected.

The options available for the treatment of Helicoverpa infestations late are limited because of withholding periods (WHP). Methomyl has a 1 day WHP while thiodicarb has a 21 day WHP. Indoxacarb (StewardTM) has a 21 day WHP, but no more than one application is permitted per crop growth cycle, and the cut-off for indoxacarb use has now passed in all regions (15 Sep in CQ, 15 Oct in warm areas, 30 Oct in cool areas). Check with others in your local area on their experience with the efficacy of options when making a choice.