Robert Burns

October 15, 2009

6 Min Read

Following rains, armyworms marched in and devoured improved pastures and wheat throughout the state. But the worst may be over -- or not -- according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.

They say producers could see another flush of armyworms depending on the weather.

"Conditions are improving, but the biggest problems we do have right now are the cooler weather – as far as forage production goes -- and then the onset of armyworms," said Dr. Ron Gill, AgriLife Extension livestock specialist, College Station.

Gill said he's had reports for armyworms from across the state, but they are spotty.

"For example, in North Central Texas, around Decatur they're very heavy and out west of there, but south of Decatur about 15 miles, there's not any activity," he said. "Also out in the Rolling Plains area, the wheat pastures are going to be susceptible to armyworm infestations as well as greenbugs at a future date." AgriLife Extension agents for agriculture reported armyworms in Baylor, Bosque, Burleson, Clay, Ellis, Grayson, Hamilton, Hardeman, Johnson, Kaufman, Knox, Lamar, Montague,Van Zandt, Wise, Wood and Young counties.

Gill noted that armyworms are relatively easy to control if they're detected early. When the worms are large, they are hard to control.

"One of the problems we are having this year is that there seems to be several hatches occurring in the same area, so all the worms are not the same age," he said. "That may present a problem when you go in to control them; you may have to spray multiple times."

Based on last year's prices, a single treatment can be as low as $7-$8 per acre, which includes materials and the cost of application, he said.

Dr. Allen Knutson, AgriLife Extension entomologist based in Dallas, said cooler weather has slowed the maturation of the current armyworm population and reduced the likelihood of them becoming adults and laying more eggs.

"However, we could still have moths migrating in from southern areas that are currently depositing eggs, so additional worm populations could develop," he said. "For these reasons, warm weather could prolong the armyworm threat. Usually cooler weather in November puts a halt to armyworm problems, but that's weeks away."

The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters:

CENTRAL: Rains caused flooding, erosion and some damage to terraces, but runoff topped off most stock tanks. Armyworm damage on warm-season and cool-season crops increased. Wet weather hindered fieldwork.

COASTAL BEND: Light, scattered showers came to the southernmost part of the region with some relatively heavy rains in the north. Producers were harvesting sunflowers and sesame. Forages responded to the rain, and pasture conditions were improving.

EAST: Daily rains continued with more predicted. Field activity was at a standstill as producers waited for a break in the weather to harvest hay and plant winter forages. Low nighttime temperatures slowed forage growth. Armyworms and feral hogs damaged pastures and lawns. Beef producers continued weaning calves. Livestock were in good condition.

ROLLING PLAINS: Rainfall continued throughout most of the last week. Fall armyworms continued to be a problem throughout the region, particularly in fields that were not kept clean of volunteer wheat and grassy weeds. Fly populations have also exploded due to the wet conditions. Producers were busy sowing wheat between showers and the crop looked good over much of the region, with uniform stands. Growers began defoliating cotton; harvest was expected to begin within a couple of weeks. Irrigated cotton promised above-average yields; dryland, below average. Pastures greened up, and livestock were in good condition. Rains brought the peanut harvest to a standstill.

PANHANDLE: Cooler temperatures and moisture helped the wheat crop but delayed the corn harvest and slowed the maturing of the cotton and sorghum. Soil moisture remained short in most areas. Corn was 15 percent to 65 percent harvested. Cotton had 35 percent to 100 percent of bolls opened. A few areas had begun harvesting before the rain. Soybeans were 40 percent to 55 percent harvested. Wheat was 55 percent to 100 percent planted. Oats were planted and about 50 percent emerged. Cattle were in good condition. Some producers put cattle out to graze early emerged wheat. Pastures were in fair condition.

SOUTH: Rain accompanied by a cold front improved conditions throughout the region. AgriLife Extension agents in all counties reported adequate soil moisture. Rangeland and pastures, especially buffel grass pastures, continued to improve, but the cooler temperatures slowed forage production. In the northern parts of the region, planting of wheat and oats was completed. Three quarters of earlier planted crops were emerged. Peanut harvesting was expected to begin within a week if weather permits. Some late-season hay was being harvested. Fieldwork in preparation for the 2010 crop season was ongoing in the eastern parts of the region. All winter wheat and oat planting in the western parts of the region was expected to be completed within a week. Pecan harvesting in the western counties was expected to begin soon. However, pecan yields may be limited due to lack of water received during earlier development stages. Growers were actively planting spinach, and cabbage progressed well with cooler temperatures. In the southern counties, fall crops were progressing well. Livestock improved with foraging on new-growth grasses and forbes. Stock tank levels rose, and some ranchers were able to stop supplemental feeding.

SOUTH PLAINS: Temperatures fluctuated from a high of 90 degrees to a low of 37 degrees. At the end of the reporting period, lows were near freezing. Soil moisture was short to adequate. The corn and peanut harvests were in full swing. Harvesting of early maturing cotton and soybean varieties continued, as did the planting of winter wheat. Pastures and rangeland were in fair to good condition. Cattle were in good condition with continued supplemental feeding.

SOUTHEAST: Recent rains have helped the growth of the Bermuda grasses and germinated oat and rye crops. High temperatures and some moisture have provided good forage growth, but humidity was too high to allow hay to cure. The condition of cattle rose as grazing improved with the rain. However, some pastures may never recover as they were overstocked because of the summer drought. Soybeans looked good and were filling pods in some fields.

SOUTHWEST: The southernmost part of the region received 5 - 6 inches of rain. Improved forage and browsing conditions raised the prospects for remaining livestock and wildlife. However, the year-to-date cumulative rainfall remained below the long-term average. More rain will be needed to sustain the improved production outlook through the winter months. The cotton harvest was completed and stalks were destroyed for boll weevil control. About 10 percent of the crop remains in field-stored modules. Peanuts continued to make good progress. The pecan harvest was gaining momentum. The fall sweet corn harvest was ongoing. Plantings of some fields were timed so the sweet corn would not mature until November in order to take advantage of Thanksgiving sales. Fall-planted cabbage, pickling cucumbers and green beans were making good progress. Some green beans were harvested. The fall-cabbage harvest was slowly gaining momentum.

WEST CENTRAL: Much cooler temperatures and wet conditions came to the region. Most areas received significant rainfall. Soil moisture levels were high, but field activity was slowed by wet conditions. Fall armyworms were becoming a problem in many areas. Rangeland and pastures conditions continued to improve. Stock water tanks and ponds levels began to rise from runoff. Livestock remained in fair to good condition.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like