Typically western bean cutworm larvae burrow into the ear and feast on the developing grain. Pioneer has a complete lineup of Herculex trait hybrids that provide the extra insurance against the western bean cutworm.
Western bean cutworms are not the only fox in the henhouse this year. The next set of pictures were taken from a field of Pioneer 36V51. 36V51 is an example of a hybrid with the RoundUp Ready gene, but no gene for corn borer control. Surprise, surprise, there is corn borer in this field.
The purple stalks are a classic symptom of corn borer injury. The corn borer that you see burrowing into the stalk cuts off the flow of carbohydrates produced by the upper leaves. The carbohydrate buildup in those leaves triggers the plant to produce a purple pigment called anthocyanin.
You can trigger the entire corn plant to turn purple if you remove the ear. By taking the ear away we remove the sink for the carbohydrates produced from the leaves and stalks. Within a few days the whole plant takes on a purple hue.
There is one good thing to say about corn borer. They eat western bean cutworms. 36V51 has no protection against western bean cutworm, but as long as corn borer are present, no western bean cutworm will survive.
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