We evaluated wheat stem sawfly, Cephus cinctus Norton, parasitism, infestation, and sawfly-cut stems in wheat fields bordering intensely tilled (no visible stubble residue), minimally tilled (>75% stubble residue visible), and untilled (chemical fallow, herbicide fallow management) summer fallow fields in north-central and south-central Montana. No difference in sawfly parasitism or sawfly-cut stems was found between fields bordering minimally tilled and fields bordering untilled summer fallow. Sawfly parasitism in fields bordering untilled summer fallow was greater than in fields bordering intensely tilled summer fallow at six of the eight sites examined. Sawfly-cut stems were greater in the field bordering intensely tilled fallow at four sites, with no difference in sawfly-cut stems between the intensely tilled and untilled field at the other four sites. Although it has never been reported, we have observed that many sawfly stubs are completely buried. Therefore, we measured the depth of sawfly stubs in four untilled fields in Broadwater County, MT. Two-thirds of the stubs were completely buried (206 of 300) with an average depth of 6 mm. Intensive tillage, which results in soil-covered stubble, is not an effective sawfly control practice, because sawflies typically overwinter below ground and upon emergence must dig to reach the soil surface. However, Bracon cephi (Gahan) and Bracon lissogaster Muesebeck overwinter above ground in stems and might be unable to dig to the soil surface if buried. The elimination of intensive tillage in favor of chemical fallow should result in greater sawfly parasitism over time. Producers replacing minimal tillage with chemical fallow should see no effect on sawfly parasitism.
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