Seed Treatments, In-Furrow Sprays, and Granular Insecticides: What to do in Mississippi Field Corn

Angus Catchot, Extension Entomologist
By Angus Catchot, Extension Entomologist, Don Cook, Entomologist, Jeff Gore, Research and Extension Entomologist and Fred Musser, Research Entomologist April 1, 2015 07:30 Updated

Seed Treatments, In-Furrow Sprays, and Granular Insecticides: What to do in Mississippi Field Corn

As corn planting gets underway, I have received numerous calls lately around seed treatment rates and especially the addition of pyrethroid insecticides with starter fertilizer. Below is a somewhat recycled and updated article I posted last year that addresses many of these questions.

Although every major field crop we grow in Mississippi is responsive to at planting insect protection; field corn is perhaps the most consistent. Why is this? At many of the winter meetings I hear the agronomists talking about maximizing yield of field corn. They mention numerous things that all protect yield such as planter speed, uniformity of seed spacing, seed depth, and the list goes on and on. All of these things can make a huge difference in corn yield. But why? Corn does not have the ability to compensate nearly to the degree as other crops we grow, such as soybeans and certainly cotton for problems. We could go into the whole thing about flex ears and so on, but I will leave that to the agronomists on another day. Point is, you are rewarded for doing all things perfectly with corn more so than any other crop I know of. This is why early season insect protection is so important.

In our area, we can face problems from numerous below ground insect pests such as; sugarcane beetle, seedcorn maggot, white grubs, southern corn rootworm, wireworms, and the list goes on. They can occur alone or in combination, but they will occur to some to degree. We have had in-furrow granular compounds around for a number of years, but now nearly all corn has an insecticide seed treatment. Close to 20 years ago when I was working on my M.S. in corn, we were evaluating the benefit of granular insecticides in corn. There were huge benefits, but many growers did not use them. It was not at all uncommon to see numerous corn stands destroyed by soil insect pests. Since that time seed treatments have been fully adopted and we have seen soil insect problems minimized. Not eliminated, but minimized. As a result we have seen corn yields stabilize to some degree. The question over the last few years has been are the low rates of insecticide seed treatments doing enough to fully protect yield. My data would say sometimes, but not as consistently. While the low rates have done a good job in minimizing across the board soil insect problems, they have left bushels on the table in many situations in our area.


Often it is difficult to determine what insect pest or what degree of damage is responsible for yield responses we are seeing with the different types of at-planting insecticides. The reason is because sometimes the stand looks very healthy even in untreated plots, but we see a response in yield where we have at plant insect protection. Sometimes the response is quite large, but we never quite see enough damage above ground to adequately explain the yield differences, so we are left wondering where it comes from.

While working on sugarcane beetles in corn, one of our graduate students (Mr. Kevin Lanford) was artificially simulating sugarcane beetle damage to V3 stage corn by removing ½ – ¾ inch of soil and manually damaging the underground portion of the stem (damage was slight stem penetration with a drill bit, simulates sugarcane beetle perfectly). We then replaced the soil and monitored the above ground symptomology that occurred. We developed an above ground rating scale to separate levels of visual above ground damage into categories, hand yielded each plant, and analyzed according to its ranking. We did this in 2 locations for 2 years.


0 = no apparent damage, plants look the same as undamaged plants

1 = slight stunting or mild leaf streaking

2 = moderate to severe stunting or severe leaf streaking

3 = dead heart


Plants that showed zero above ground symptomology had 9% shorter ears than plants that were undamaged and yielded 18% less than undamaged plants. Think about this: even slight damage below the soil that does not manifest itself above ground in any way at all may still be enough to cause significant yield reduction in field corn.

This is possibly why we see consistent results in yield protection with at-planting insecticides in field corn in Mississippi even when there appears to be no damage. It is also why we often see even more of a response when we increase the rate or add a granular or in-furrow spray on top of seed treatments. Under significant soil insect pressure it further minimizes below ground insect damage, which results in more yield protection.


damage yieldear length

Below are results of some of the seed treatment and in-furrow work we have conducted over the last couple of years. Sometimes products and rates jump around, but the point remains the same. There are definite benefits from protecting corn seed and seedlings from early season insect injury. Depending on the level of pest infestation, you may see advantages from the addition of an in-furrow pyrethroid spray or granule type product on top of your seed treatment. Take into account your likely level of risk. In corn after corn or minimum till situations this may be a real advantage.

2012 in furrow spray yield

2012 seed trt yield


2013 seed trt and in furrow combo 1

2013 seed trt and in furrow combo 2







What to do right now?

The question is not really about should we add a seed treatment or not. The question is really, will I benefit from higher rates of seed treatements or by adding additional protection on top of a seed treatment. Consider the following:

1. Corn behind corn?

2. No-till?

3. History of soil insect problems?

4. Late burndown?

If you answer yes to one or more of the previous questions you may see incremental yield increase by moving up from 250 seed treatment rates to 500, or by adding a granular insecticide or pyrethroid spray in-furrow on top of the seed treatment. If you are in a pure conventional tillage situation, the likelihood of response is diminished over and above the normal seed treatments rates. The graph below shows the average of several test where we looked at the potential benefit of adding addition protection on top of seed treatments where NO sugarcane beetles were present. If you have had a history of sugarcane beetles, to achieve adequate control, it is essential to take extra precaution to protect stand but the pest can be erratic and hard to predict.


corn combo seed trt






Realize, if you choose to do nothing, it is unlikely that you will see substantial yield loss but the upside potential has averaged about 2 additional bushels per acre on average.






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Angus Catchot, Extension Entomologist
By Angus Catchot, Extension Entomologist, Don Cook, Entomologist, Jeff Gore, Research and Extension Entomologist and Fred Musser, Research Entomologist April 1, 2015 07:30 Updated
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