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Local research tests insecticide for wheat

Amarillo, TX - Texas is one of the top wheat producers in the nation - last year, the state's total yield was worth a little over $650 million.

And ongoing research in our area is yielding promising news for wheat farmers in the Panhandle as local researchers look for ways to protect panhandle crops ... and panhandle farmers.

For the past three years, AgriLife researchers have been testing a chemical called thiamethoxam, more commonly known as "Cruiser."  Cruiser is an insecticide specifically targeted toward aphids, which are a constant threat to wheat. It's applied to the seed itself, and since winter wheat spends most of its life underground, longevity is important.

Dr. Jerry Michels, Professor of Entomology Research at Texas A&M AgriLife in Amarillo, began the study in 2010, but because of prolonged drought, this was the first year they had a large population of aphids for some solid results - and the results look promising.

"We got some excellent results with it, showing that Cruiser could give up to 70 percent control of green bugs on wheat when it's planted in September," said Dr. Michels, "and we're looking at aphids in February or March, so we're really pleased with those results."

The study is part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program called iWheat, which is intended to develop better pest control for farmers.  AgriLife will continue the study to find the best possible combination of science and economics for panhandle growers.

"One thing we always want to look at too are the rates we use," explains Michels, "how low can you drop the amount of the chemical that you need to apply to the seed, because that gets more economic for the farmer."

The advantage of seed treatments is you only have to apply it once, and the chemical can zero in on specific insects, unlike aerial sprays that can also kill the helpful ones.

If you'd like to learn more about the study itself or register for iWheat, follow the links attached to this story.

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