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The Sorghum Headworm Calculator will provide information to assist producers and other pest management professionals in making economically and environmentally sound pest management decisions. The headworm economic threshold in grain sorghum is calculated based on market prices, control cost, and actual damage potential of larval feeding.

Fill in the following variables (control cost, grain value, and heads/acre) in the "app" and an economic threshold in "worms/10 heads" will be calculated based on that information.

Estimating the economic injury level for sorghum headworms is complicated because the potential yield loss varies with the size of the larvae. That is why it is necessary to record the number of small, medium-size and large headworms. Small larvae (up to 1/4 inch) consume very little grain (about 10 percent of the total) and about 80 percent of them die in this stage. Therefore, small larvae should not be considered in determining the economic injury level. If most headworms are this size, sample the field again in 3 to 4 days. About 19 percent of medium-size larvae (1/4 to 1/2 inch long) survive beyond this stage. Thus, the potential grain loss from medium-size larvae is only 19 percent of the potential loss from large larvae. Most corn earworm larvae larger than 1/2 inch will survive to complete development, and these large larvae are most damaging; they consume 83 percent of the total grain consumed during larval development. If most of the larvae are larger than 1/4 inch, determine which size (medium size or large) is most common and use the corresponding threshold to make treatment decisions.

The beat-bucket technique is the best way to estimate the number of headworms in sorghum. Shake sorghum grain heads vigorously into a 2 to 5 gallon plastic bucket (a small white office trash can works well), then count the caterpillars in the bucket. For easy math I like to work with sets of 10; where I shake ten random heads as I walk down the row then I count and evaluate the size of the larvae. If more heads are sampled in a set there may be too much “trash” in the bucket to efficiently make counts. Record the number of small (less than 1/4 inch long), medium (1/4 to 1/2 inch long) and large (longer than 1/2 inch) headworms found in the samples. If most of the larvae are larger than 1/4 inch, determine which size (medium size or large) is most common and use the corresponding threshold to make treatment decisions.

Educational programs conducted by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, handicap or national origin. The information given herein is for educational purposes only.

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