Protect Minimum-Till Fields from Pillbug Damage

Roly-polies can wreak havoc with seed.

To children, pillbugs - otherwise known as roly- polies - are fascinating and harmless toys. To soybean producers, however, they are just another pest.

Pillbugs are a threat to no-till and minimum-till fields because they require a moisture-rich environment. And, producers leave crop residues in these fields to help retain moisture.

While some producers may try treating infested fields with pesticides, this method has not been consistently effective in the past, says Jeff Whitworth, Kansas State University Research and Extension entomologist.

Pillbugs feed underneath crop residues - which also act as a shelter for the roly-poly crustaceans, protecting them from any contact with toxicant sprays.

Results of studies completed in the past several years do indicate that insecticide-treated seed can significantly reduce the amount of pillbug damage, but will not eliminate it, Whitworth says. So, to reduce the number of pillbugs in fields with previous infestations, producers should consider planting insecticide-treated seed this year to help protect against further crop damage, he says.

"Seed treatments will help and are economically advantageous. Just do not expect consistent, 100% protection (against pillbugs)," Whitworth says.

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