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True wireworms

Agronomist, Chris Baker (AGnVET Services), has reported issues with true wireworms causing damage to a wheat crop, west of Forbes, in the Central West Slopes and Plains district of New South Wales. Chris says wireworm larvae have chewed the germinating seed, causing loss of tillers and/or death of whole plants. The damage appears to be worse along paddock edges. The paddock contains heavy grey clay soil and was previously a pasture with a high population of weeds. After digging in the affected areas, larvae have been found about 10 mm below the soil surface. Chris says the affected paddock was cultivated several times prior to sowing this season.

True wireworms (Family: Elateridae) are largely confined to cereals, although they occasionally feed on canola and some pulse crops. Larvae will typically feed on germinating seed and underground stems of cereals and may also attack the roots of seedlings. This can cause wilting and seedling death. Damage can result in thinning and bare patches within crops, and severe feeding damage may require re-sowing. Wireworm problems are often associated with stubble retention and trash from previous crops.

True wireworm larvae grow between 15–40 mm in length, are soft-bodied, flattened and slow moving grubs. Their body colour ranges from creamy yellow in the most common species to reddish-brown. Their heads are usually dark brown and wedge-shaped. Wireworms are easily confused with other soil-dwelling beetles. Consultant, Glen Smith (3D-Ag), has reported issues with beetle larvae in a wheat crop near Wagga Wagga, in the South West Slopes district of New South Wales. Glen says whole plants are missing, with no signs of feeding damage observed above ground. The species responsible for this damage has not been identified. 

Early detection of true wireworms and other beetles within crops is important. Once feeding damage has become obvious it is often too late to implement effective control strategies. For further information on wireworms, refer to PestFacts Issue No. 1.

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