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Are wireworms’ days numbered?

Once you have wireworms, it’s hard to get rid of them, but that might be changing once BASF’s new seed treatment launches in 2021

Growers will soon be able to knock back wireworm populations rather than just holding the line.

BASF says it is two years away from launching its new cereal seed treatment, Teraxxa, on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

The seed treatment will introduce a new chemistry to the market. Teraxxa will be a Group 30 pesticide and promises to actually kill wireworms, rather than current seed treatments that only discourage feeding.

“The current products are mainly neonicotinoid based and they really don’t do a good job killing wireworms,” Manitoba Agriculture entomologist John Gavloski said. “They kind of make them sick and they don’t feed during the vulnerable stages, but then later on the wireworms do recover and they resume feeding. So that’s the difference of this product. It actually kills them. So you’ve basically knocked the population way back for the next year, which is good.”

For the first time growers can control wireworm, rather than manage it. And the new product is an alternative to neonic chemistry to boot.

Teraxxa’s active ingredient, broflanilide, affects the nervous system of the wireworm, causing overstimulation and death, Chris Hewitt, seed treatment brand manager with BASF said. The result, according to the company, is rapid mortality to wireworms on contact and therefore active population control.

“In effect, it’s lights out on wireworm,” Hewitt said.

At the moment, the product is only slated for registration in cereals, primarily oats, barley and wheat, he added.

The product promises to break the life cycle of the wireworm, which can survive in the soil for multiple years and, until now, has been a challenge to fight once a population is established.

The seed treatment will also be outfitted against seed and soil-borne diseases.

“We’ve been working on this for a while both in Canada and the U.S. and we see this as a great new tool in the tool box for growers to make use of,” Hewitt said. “It’ll also include our broad-spectrum fungicide products.”

The product will be co-formulated with Insure Cereal FX4, a fungicide targeted to soil-based pathogens and seedling diseases in barley, oats and wheat.

Teraxxa alone will also be made available for mixing, Hewitt added.

Teraxxa will be one of the first new seed treatments put out by BASF since folding in Bayer’s seeds portfolio. The two agri-chemical giants closed a deal in August last year, which saw BASF absorb assets shed by Bayer as part of its deal to acquire Monsanto.

BASF suddenly got access to Bayer’s variety development and breeding assets, seed treatments, some of its pesticide projects and a new digital farming arm, Xarvio.

The company expects to see over 39 new products come to market by 2025, including a list of new seed treatment products.

Dodging the neonic debate

The Group 30 pesticide flies under the radar when it comes to public backlash against neonicotinoids. The group of pesticides have taken a reputational hit for their accused impact to aquatic insects and pollinators, leading to much tighter restrictions in places like Europe. The European Union banned three of those chemistries — clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam — for field crops in 2018.

Those three chemistries have also come under review from Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA). The product dodged the worst of the possible restrictions during a review on its impact on pollinators earlier this year, but is still waiting a review on its impact on aquatic insects, something that could still limit use or remove it entirely from the farmer’s tool box.

BASF inherited clothianidin-based seed treatment Poncho in the deal with Bayer. As a non-neonicotinoid, however, Teraxxa will dodge those regulatory worries.

Gavloski welcomed the addition of a non-neonic wireworm control option, given the looming spectre of neonicotinoid review.

“As far as the neonics go, I think the review is going to continue regardless of this product coming on the market. If anything, it provides a reasonable alternative to the neonics, so we wouldn’t be left in a void with a lot of crops if they were to be phased out. The timing of it is good given what’s happening,” he said.

He has not seen any work on Teraxxa’s potential impact to pollinators or aquatic insect species, he said, although he suspects there would be limited risk to pollinators unless the seeder throws off excessive dust to bring the seed treatment in contact with those pollinators.

BASF hopes to register the product next year for commercial launch in 2021.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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