An entomologist says bug experts are batting .500 when it comes to predicting how bad a year it’ll be for crop pests in Iowa. Extension research entomologist Jon Tollefson says the mild winter led many to predict an explosion of corn-eaters.They’d correctly predicted lots of bean leaf beetles would survive winter, and they did, but they’d also predicted a big population of flea-hoppers and their spreading of the crop disease Stewart’s Wilt. But Tollefson says that bug problem hasn’t appeared. With world travel and shipping of food and farm products, Tollefson says there are always new pests to look out for.He says there are all kinds of un-invited guests, the best known new one around Iowa the soybean aphid. Tollefson says it may not seem dramatic, but new weeds and bugs that make their way into Iowa are invaders.He says purple loosestrife, a nice flowering plant, doesn’t seem bad but will take over a waterway and squeeze out other plants, making it an “alien invader” worthy of the old horror films. While there are new “invaders” heading our way all the time, the entomologist says we can’t stop or evict them, so the best defense is being prepared and keeping a close watch for new pests. And, Tollefson worries about losing funding to do that.Tollefson says in a budget-cutting year, programs to watch for approaching pests seem less pressing than other programs.
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