New Helicoverpa thresholds in vegetative soybeans

The new economic threshold for Helicoverpa in vegetative soybeans is 8 larvae per sqare metre and replaces the old 33% defoliation threshold. The new threshold is based on field trials conducted by John Rogers (formerly with DPI&F at Kingaroy). These field trials show that approximately 7.5 larvae per square metre can be tolerated with no yield loss, but that severe yield losses can occur once this critical population (the inflection point) is were based on the maximum defoliation (33% and widely cited in the scientific literature) that can be tolerated without reducing soybean yield. In John Rogers’ trials, Helicoverpa populations equivalent to the new threshold (8/m2) inflicted significantly less than 33% defoliation. Note that the threshold may be influenced by crop size, with fewer larvae tolerable in very early or very small crops, and more larvae acceptable in larger more vigorous late-vegetative crops.
Immediate intervention with a more robust larvicide may be required against extremely high populations (e.g. > 20/m2). While indoxacarb (Steward®) could be used at this stage, only one application is allowed per field per crop growth cycle, and this product is best saved for later in the season when it is most needed.
loopers and cluster caterpillars which are primarily foliage rather than bud feeders. However, cluster caterpillars are more likely to attack soybean pods than loopers, but not as savagely as Helicoverpa.
Helicoverpa damage in soybeans

A- vegetative damage
B – damage to terminals results in
C – reduction in pods and yield

Article by Hugh Brier (DPI&F Kingaroy), John Rogers (formerly DPI&F Kingaroy and Kate Charleston (DPI&F Toowoomba)

The new threshold (8 larvae/m2) is based on the maximum number of larvae that can be tolerated before there is an economic reduction in yield. The closeness of the threshold and the inflection point is a measure of the severity of the yield losses that can occur once this critical population is exceeded.

Previous thresho

The reason yield loss occurs below 33% defoliation is because of Helicoverpa’s feeding behaviour – they are not called budworms for nothing. As well as feeding on leaves, they also feed on the soybean plant’s vegetative terminals and auxiliary buds, the latter which are the precursors to floral buds.

Previous vegetative thresholds allowed for vegetative terminal loss (tipping) with 25% terminal loss the cited critical level above which action was required. The new thresholds are below the old terminal-loss guidelines as populations of 8 larvae/m2 destroyed fewer than 25% of terminals in John Rogers’ trials.

The crop’s ability to tolerate 7.5 larvae/m2 during the vegetative stage without yield loss, means that Helicoverpa nucleopolyhedrovirus [NPV] (e.g. VivusMax®) can still be safely used prior to flowering, provided it targets appropriately small larvae (<7 mm long). This is because NPV only has to keep populations below this critical level, rather than achieving ≥90% control that would be required if yield loss commenced as soon as populations exceeded 0/m2.

Until data to the contrary is available, the 33% defoliation vegetative threshold is still valid for

John Rogers’ studies illustrate the link between a pest’s feeding behaviour and its impact on crop yield. The studies also highlight the importance of having ‘species specific’ data, and that a ‘one threshold model fits all’ approach is not always appropriate. Further trials are planned to study the feeding behaviour and damage potential of cluster caterpillars and all the major looper species attacking soybeans. However, such detailed research is likely to take at least 3-4 years to complete.