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Hessian Fly Control Important to Saving a Carolina Wheat Crop

Yesterday we heard from NC State Extension Small Grains Specialist Dr. Randy Weisz on the threat of stripe rust in Carolina winter wheat this year. Now, Weisz talks about Hessian fly in wheat. Weisz explains there’s been a more widespread infestation this year than in years past:

“We know that there are more hessian fly infested wheat fields than there usually are in most years, particularly in the eastern parts of the state. We’ve also had some reports from the SC border of infestation.”

Weisz describes how to spot a Hessian fly problem:

“If growers look at their wheat and it looks pretty good, then they almost don’t have an issue. If they have hessian fly, even a casual look at their wheat, they will see that something is wrong. The wheat looks bad, and gets worse with time; tillering is going backwards and there are dead or dying tillers and it looks thinner than it did a month ago.”

Weisz further explains how to make a definitive diagnosis of Hessian fly:

“If a grower goes out and looks at any of the dying tillers, and takes a pen knife and carefully lifts the roots and stem and looks carefully, they will see the hessian fly pupa which looks like brown grains of rice or the maggots which look like white grains of rice.”

But, Weisz advises against mixing a nitrogen top dressing with pesticide control for the fly:

“The best chance that they have for getting control would be to apply a long residual insecticide, probably the second or third week in March. Growers need to get their nitrogen out as soon as they can but I would not advise a grower to wait to get his nitrogen out until mid-March because they want to tag it with an insecticide. I would get the nitrogen out then wait a week and then make another trip if they need an insecticide.”

Dr. Randy Weisz, NC State Extension Small Grain Specialist. is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.