Project Overview

Local management practices can sometimes have unintended effects in a crop system. Cover crops for example are celebrated for their ability to increase soil fertility and prevent erosion, however there is concern among growers about the potential for cover cropping to make fields more attractive to pests like the seedcorn maggot. This may be because decaying cover crops could function as a cue to female flies for egg laying. Further, given the diversity of cover cropping strategies in terms of planting season, termination method, and cover crop species, there remain critical gaps in our understanding of which strategies minimize pest risk.

Researchers at Cornell University have set out to better understand the role that cover crops play in mediating seedcorn maggot behavior. To do this, corn and bean seeds are planted at farms along fields with and without cover crops. Every two weeks, all the seeds are extracted to assess the number of maggots in the seeds as well as the amount of seeds damaged.

Preliminary Data

Preliminary data indicates seedcorn maggot damage is not elevated in fields with cover crops, and that cover cropping may even be associated with a reduction in damage. It is important to understand the difference between preliminary results and a published, peer reviewed scientific publication that can be disseminated to the public and utilized widely by growers. These preliminary results showing no real effect in SCM abundance are derived from one year of field research across many sites. Due to the variability of our climate conditions in New York, it is important to note that at least two more years of field trials should be conducted before finalizing results and making recommendations to growers. To further test this finding, researchers will repeat this experiment on a larger scale in order to provide a robust recommendation to growers for minimizing seedcorn maggot risk. 

Findings are preliminary and are not intended to replace current management plans or control methods. Additional research is being conducted to help inform long term recommendations and guidance.