The Q&A Archives: seed corn maggots?

Question: I recently planted snap peas. Emergence was very poor, and those that did emerge eventually wilt and die. I pulled up a few of the dying/dead plants and found 1/4 inch yellowish maggot-like pests either eating the seed leftover or in the roots. I want to replant and eventually rotate w/beans in summer? Suggestions?

Answer: It might also be somewhat similar bean seed maggot which attacks many different seeds, including peas and beans and has several generations per year. Usually both of these pests are more likely to happen at an early planting when the soil is still very cold and/or wet, or in a poorly drained location, or where affected crops have been grown before. The feeding damage then can leave the plant extra susceptible to fungal or bacterial diseases, too.

This is one of the reasons it is so important to rotate your crops so that you grow susceptible crops at least four years apart. Another preventive cultural control method is to avoid digging organic matter into the soil during spring as it attracts them. Instead, work it into the soil in the fall. Also, plant your seeds shallow so they are in warmer soil near the surface and germinate as fast as possible. Unfortunately, there are no controls once you've noticed the pest -- it is already too late for that sowing as you experienced with the peas.

I would suggest you work with your county extension to get a specific identification of the pest, then based on knowing that, decide how to proceed. If a chemical preventive seed treatment is recommended, they will have the most up to date information on what to use and how/when is best to apply it. In the meantime, you may also want to double check your rotation plans to try to minimize the chances of infecting another crop. I'm sorry you have encountered this pest!

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