Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana 61801
Del Monte Foods, Agricultural Research, Rochelle, IL 61018-9990
Corn flea beetles, Chaetocnema pulicaria, vector Erwinia stewartii (synamorph Pantoea stewartii), which causes Stewart's bacterial wilt of corn (Zea mays). A seed treatment insecticide, imidacloprid, killed flea beetles and reduced the number of feeding wounds and Stewart's wilt symptoms per leaf in greenhouse studies. The objective of our research was to evaluate the ability of imidacloprid and thiamethoxam seed treatments to control Stewart's wilt on sweet corn hybrids under field conditions with naturally occurring populations of the corn flea beetle. Six field trials were planted at four locations in 1998. Eleven field trials were planted at nine locations in 1999. The treatment design was a factorial of sweet corn hybrids and seed treatments. Stewart's wilt incidence ranged from 0 to 54% in the 1998 trials. Incidence of Stewart's wilt in nontreated plots of the susceptible hybrid Jubilee ranged from 2% at the 8-leaf stage to 77% 1 week after mid-silk in the 1999 trials. Seed treatment insecticides reduced the incidence of Stewart's wilt by ≈50 to 85% relative to nontreated controls. The level of control was ≈75 to 85% in seven trials planted before 1 June 1999, when incidence of Stewart's wilt on nontreated Jubilee ranged from 4 to 71%. The level of control was ≈50 to 70% in the three trials planted after 1 July 1999, when incidence of Stewart's wilt on nontreated Jubilee ranged from 44 to 73%. Although comparisons varied, the level of control gained from seed treatment insecticides was similar to the next higher level of host resistance. Seed treatment insecticides appear to control Stewart's wilt during very early growth of corn plants, when foliar applications of insecticides are ineffective and the effectiveness of host resistance varies depending on the proximity of flea beetle feeding sites to the plant's growing point.