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Ryegrass putting down roots across Arkansas

LONOKE, Ark. – If Ford Baldwin’s eyes weren’t enough of a confirmation, then the many phone calls from farmers “hollering” about being covered up with ryegrass did the trick.

“I wasn’t sure before – but now, after walking a bunch of fields? Yeah, ryegrass in the state is getting worse,” says the weed scientist with Practical Weed Consultants (and Delta Farm Press contributor). “I keep hearing producers complaining that they’ve got it where they’ve never had it before. I’m not sure about what can be done about it at this late date. It’s already heading out and spraying Roundup all over the countryside to suppress it is not a good idea.”

Ryegrass is increasing everywhere tremendously, says Baldwin. Almost every time he goes out on a rice call, “producers complain about seeing so much more ryegrass. It seems every field I look across that hasn’t been worked up this spring is solid ryegrass. And sometimes fields that have been worked up look bad too.”

In the field

Ken Smith has been getting many similar calls. This afternoon, the Arkansas Extension weed scientist is on his way to see a ryegrass field.

“What we’ve been seeing is that Roundup used at burndown just isn’t taking ryegrass out,” says Smith, who is based at the Southeast Research and Extension Center in Monticello, Ark. “The weed will turn brown or orange and then rejuvenates. Ryegrass has always been a little hard to kill and now, it seems, without a maximum dose of glyphosate it won’t be killed.”

If the weed isn’t taken out with early, it becomes increasingly difficult to control later on. Smith believes the main problem this year – besides the increasing population – was the size of the ryegrass when burndowns began.

“The plants were just too large. Last fall and winter, the weather was conducive to getting ryegrass stands up and growing them to large sizes. Our winter was too warm. So now we’ve got clumps of ryegrass that won’t die. We’ve sprayed them, they come back, and we spray them again.”

William Johnson, Pioneer field sales agronomist, says when Hoelon-resistant ryegrass showed up a few years ago, “we knew trouble was brewing. The ryegrass that has come since is much hardier than the stuff we were seeing say, six or seven years ago. The ryegrass problem is all over the state. I get report after report of it.”

New products

So what can be done with the weed? At this stage of the growing season, not much.

Osprey has received a label for use on ryegrass. It should help some in wheat fields with Hoelon-resistant ryegrass.

“Osprey has good activity,” says Baldwin. “The thing that I keep in the back of mind is – and experiences by producers overseas have shown us – that if you use a herbicide in a big way for a few years, ryegrass will become resistant to it. We’ve got to be careful.”

Smith says he’s already hearing “plenty” of reports of glyphosate-resistant ryegrass. “I’m a little skeptical that we have that problem. It’s a long way from being confirmed. It could develop, though.”

Osprey has been effective against ryegrass in wheat, says Smith. A problem has developed though, with ryegrass germinating behind Osprey (which has no residual activity). That post-Osprey flush is now full-sized and seeding. That, says Smith, is a “major aggravation” since a lot of wheat was sprayed with Osprey back in February.

In rice, “I don’t think we ever took the ryegrass down,” says Smith. “We sprayed with Roundup but by that time it was too large. Another factor may be rice producers mixing Roundup and Command. If you take that tank-mix into a rice field, it won’t take out ryegrass. Instead, it’ll reduce the Roundup activity enough to let ryegrass escape.”

Ryegrass is the number one weed in wheat, says Smith. If someone doesn’t develop a residual product to control the weed, “we’ll be facing serious questions and problems. We need to be able to spray a product in February – a product with residual. There is no such product now. If one isn’t developed, ryegrass will get worse and worse.”

Next year, says Johnson, “We’ve got to be on a hyper-aggressive burndown program in February. If you don’t get the ryegrass when it’s small, forget it. When it’s small, though, you can go out with a quart of glyphosate and take it out. That’s not going to happen this year – I’m seeing ryegrass with seed heads all over the state.”

In corn, ryegrass pilfers much nitrogen. “It’s a thief – corn will be yellow and ryegrass will be bright green. Ryegrass grows at lower temperatures than corn and that’s why it’s so aggressive.”

Many farmers, says Johnson, are using Steadfast (Dupont) and atrazine to deal with ryegrass in corn. “Steadfast has pretty good activity on ryegrass – it may not kill the weed, but it’ll make it wish for the grave.”

Minimum-till and ryegrass

As producers go to more no-till, the ryegrass problem could get worse, warns Smith. “Don’t misunderstand: minimum till is an awesome system. But there are problems and trade-offs. Obviously, if you spray ryegrass and then till, land-plane, float it, whatever, that helps keep ryegrass in check. But no-till may lead us to make separate applications just to control ryegrass.”

Baldwin agrees. Ryegrass is one that, he says, “As we go to more no-till, may turn into more of a head-ache. It isn’t tolerant of glyphosate, but it is more difficult to control with glyphosate than other weeds are. If we ever fool around and get glyphosate-resistant ryegrass, that will be a hell of a problem. There is confirmed glyphosate-resistant ryegrass in Australia, so it can happen. That’s a major concern.”

Ryegrass is a tough plant. “It loves good fertility but will also thrive on poor, red clay hillsides,” says Baldwin. “Many times it’s an edge problem. One or two passes of a herbicide around the edge of a field often controls 90 percent of the ryegrass in the whole field.

“We need to take more lessons from Australia. We need to look at what they’re doing regarding an integrated management scheme to control ryegrass. We must do a better job controlling the weed on fencerows, turn rows and fallow land. The idea that we can go out and squirt one herbicide in our wheat and one in no-till fields and have control of ryegrass is overly optimistic.”

Fallow programs

A few seasons ago, Baldwin was involved in a study on Hoelon-resistant ryegrass. What was found is that a fall fallow program will “work wonders” in controlling the weed.

“Ryegrass is a very aggressive germinator. In fields that are grown up now and aren’t going into wheat, producers might consider a fallow program: take some of these bad ryegrass fields and prepare seedbeds as if you’re going to plant wheat. The first two or three days of moist conditions – when you’ve got to wear a jacket in the morning – 90 percent of the ryegrass seeds will germinate. Then, every time it gets dry enough, a producer can go out and hit that land with a field cultivator.”

Many farmers make the mistake of thinking that if they’ve summer-fallowed a field, a ryegrass problem will be alleviated. This is a false belief, says Baldwin. “Ryegrass germinates in the fall and grows through the winter. During a summer fallow, all that’s happening is seed being stirred.”

Regarding the ryegrass problem, there is no hope beyond chemicals, says Smith. “What’s frustrating is our salvation – minimum tillage – is exacerbating the ryegrass problem. But we need minimum till. We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”

e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com

Arizona growers approve PBW eradication plan

Arizona cotton growers have put the pink bollworm on notice — its days are numbered in the Grand Canyon State.

An overwhelming majority of the state’s almost 900 cotton growers approved in mid-May a referendum to initiate a pink bollworm eradication program.

Now those same growers will focus their attention on convincing Congress it to do its part in eradicating the pest.

Arizona growers removed any doubt that they are willing to put up the money to do their part of fitting the last piece of the puzzle in place to eradicate the world’s most destructive cotton pest from the Desert Southwest and Northern Mexico.

Some 72 percent of the state’s growers participated in the vote with 79 percent of Farm Service Agency cotton growers of record approving the referendum. Those represented 56 percent of the state’s 220,000 acres of cotton.

Arizona Cotton Growers Executive Vice President Rick Lavis said the vote represented not only an endorsement of the eradication effort, but a vote of trust for leaders of the program that the eradication effort will not move forward without federal funding to rear millions more sterile pink bollworm moths necessary for complete eradication.

"We are ready to move forward with the first phase of the program in 2005 if we can convince Congress to fund the sterile moth program," said Lavis.

U.S. funds essential

While congressional funding is necessary for Arizona to begin an eradication program, that funding has become absolutely critical for growers in New Mexico, Texas and Northern Mexico who are well into a successful eradication effort but need to overwhelm low native populations with sterile moths. The sterile pink bollworm moths would be reared in a facility in Phoenix operated by California cotton growers to supply sterile larvae for distribution over SJV cotton acres each year. For more than 35 years SJV producers have kept pinkies out of the valley using sterile release technology.

Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Northern Mexico growers hope some day to have the same maintenance program as SJV growers.

And, they are so close they can taste it thanks to biotechnology, specifically Bt cotton which has been used along with pheromone technology to reduce PBW to the lowest level in decades in Texas, New Mexico and Northern Mexico with a grower-funded program over the past four years.

That success spawned a second try in Arizona to pass a pink bollworm eradication program referendum. The first attempt was in 1999. It gained majority approval, but fell short of the two-thirds necessary to become law.

Funding to trap and treat for pink bollworms throughout Arizona will come from a $32 per acre assessment for growers who are not growing Bt cotton. If a grower plants Bt cotton, he will not be assessed.

Mexico strong player

Not only did the success in Texas and New Mexico spur on support for eradication in Arizona, but Mexico’s strong participation in the eradication effort has been a real positive. Some say Mexico has actually become the leader in the program now operating. There was uncertainty five years ago when Arizona first voted about Mexico’s commitment to controlling pink bollworm south of the border. Without that, there is little hope of controlling PBW in border states.

The most telling aspect of the successful Texas/New Mexico/Mexico effort is that pink bollworm numbers have been significantly reduced with a lower percentage of Bt cotton planted there than in Arizona.

That region has only once planted 50 percent of its acreage to Bt cotton since the technology was introduced. Today it is planted on less than half the acreage. Arizona’s acreage is between 60 percent to 70 percent. It has been higher.

"We are talking a worse case scenario in that eradication zone — a combination of long season Pima cotton and less Bt cotton than is grown in Arizona yet they have had dramatic success in reducing pinkie numbers," said Marana Ariz., grower Wiley Murphy, chairman of the Arizona pink bollworm eradication committee.

Arizona growers have spent billions of dollars controlling pink bollworm since it invaded Arizona almost 40 years ago. First it was with repeated aerial pesticide applications and now with technology fees for growing Bt cotton.

According to Arizona Cotton Growers Association president Clyde Sharp of Roll, Ariz., eradication of the pink bollworm would mean growers would no longer be forced to pay any money to control pink bollworm.

Potential savings

As much as growers like Sharp dislike the high cost of biotechnology, unquestionably, he and other Arizona growers believe Bt cotton has kept them in the cotton business. However, it has not been without significant cost they believe now can be eliminated with eradication.

"I think now there is a strong possibility that we can eradicate pinkies in Southern California and Arizona using the combination of Bt cotton, pheromones and sterile moths to the point that you have a maintenance program like we do in the San Joaquin Valley," said Wally Shropshire of Blythe, Calif., chairman of the California Cotton Pest Control Board which oversees the Phoenix sterile moth rearing facility and the SJV PBW maintenance program.

Each year the San Joaquin Valley is blanketed with millions of sterile pink bollworm moths reared in Phoenix, transported to the San Joaquin Valley and then dropped by airplanes over the valley’s cotton acreage. This overwhelms any fertile moths. If a sterile moth mates with a fertile moth, the fertile moth does not lay viable eggs and the life cycle is broken.

It has been working for 36 years at a cost of less than $3 per bale to growers. It is one of the most successful biological agricultural pest control programs ever.

Desert Southwest growers are asking Congress for $7.8 million to ramp up for a blanketing cost-sharing sterile moth program for Mexico, Texas’ Trans Pecos region, New Mexico and now Arizona.

Start in east

If Congress provides the money, the Arizona program would start next season in Eastern Arizona, moving the next year to Central Arizona and finally to Western Arizona and eventually to Southern California.

Program managers would set pheromone pinkie traps throughout the state and treat with pheromones at threshold levels or in severe cases pesticides to reduce numbers.

When Arizona finishes its eradication effort, the maintenance program like that in the San Joaquin would cover 500,000 acres from Texas to Southern California.

To move into the sterile moth-release phase in those eradication areas, the pink bollworm rearing facility in Phoenix must increase its pink bollworm output from 2.5 million moths to 10 million per day. The facility has the capacity to produce that many moths. Funds also are needed to distribute moths in the binational eradication zone and for USDA-APHIS regulatory activities. The total cost of that is about $6 million.

Right now that funding request is in the House Agriculture Appropriations Committee. Unless federal funds are forthcoming to for the Texas-New Mexico-Mexico program, the program there will either have to raise rates or cut back services to continue without the sterile release program. That could jeopardize success achieved so far.

Eradicating the pink bollworm in Arizona would not only put more money into grower pockets, it could be a door re-opener to bring Pima acreage back to Central Arizona. It takes longer to produce Pima cotton and the longer the season, the more vulnerable cotton is to pinkies. That is one reason growers there quit growing it. More than 90 percent of the nation’s Pima cotton is now growing in pinkie-free San Joaquin Valley.

Improved cottons

Eradication could also enhance the efforts of the Arizona Cotton Growers Association to breed higher quality, non-transgenic cottons for Arizona. The association initiated its own breeding program three years ago, contending that varieties offered to Arizona producers were not the best suited for the desert. The threat of the pink bollworm almost makes it a necessity to introduce insect-resistant genes into any new variety. This adds several years to the variety development process.

"We took care of the boll weevil and the screwworm fly with a lot fewer tools than we have today to take care of the pink bollworm. Pinkie is a single-host insect, and there is no reason we cannot eradicate it," Sharp said.

e-mail:hcline@primediabusiness.com

Donald Chase wins Georgia Peanut Commission election

The Georgia Peanut Commission announces Donald Chase of Macon County as the new District Five board member-elect for a three-year term. Chase defeated Jimmy Thompson of Randolph County, 56.39 percent to 43.61 percent after a 30-day balloting period, which ended April 30.

Chase succeeds Wilbur Gamble of Terrell County, who did not seek re-election.

Chase farms 1,150 acres including 260 acres of peanuts. He also produces corn, sweet corn, wheat, vegetables and poultry. He serves on the board of directors of the Macon County Farm Bureau and previously served on the Georgia Agricultural Commodity Commission for Corn.

Chase will serve a three-year term.

District Five represents the counties of Chattahoochee, Clay, Lee, Macon, Marion, Peach, Quitman, Randolph, Schley, Stewart, Talbot, Taylor, Terrell and Webster counties.

The Georgia Peanut Commission represents all peanut growers in the state of Georgia and carries out programs in the areas of research, education and promotion. The Georgia Peanut Commission Board of Directors represents Georgia's 5,000 peanut farmers.

Current members on the board include Chairman Jimmy Cheney of Calhoun County, District 1; Armond Morris of Irwin County, District 2; Commission Vice Chairman Joe Boddiford, Screven County, District 3 and Commission Treasurer Rodney Dawson of Pulaski County, District 4.

Morris and Dawson who also were re-elected without opposition were sworn in for another three-year term at the Georgia Peanut Commission May board meeting.

Mississippi landowner wins 2004 National Wetlands Award

VICKSBURG, Miss. – Mississippi farmer Jack Branning has won the 2004 National Wetlands Award for Landowner Stewardship for his efforts in restoring wetlands on his 3,498-acre farm near Vicksburg.

Branning enrolled his entire farm in the permanent protection of the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Wetlands Reserve Program. With the help of NRCS specialists, Branning developed an intensive restoration plan that maximizes habitat for migratory birds and other wetland-dependent species.

The plan involved providing a diversity of wetland types, including seasonally flooded bottomland hardwoods, moist-soil wetlands, emergent marshes, shrub/scrub wetlands, and deepwater habitat.

"Jack Branning's tireless efforts and cooperation with numerous conservation partners, including Delta Wildlife, has helped him to improve and maximize wetland habitat on his property,” said Trey Cooke, executive director, Delta Wildlife.

"Mr. Branning's dedication and enthusiasm for his restoration project and his continuing management efforts have made it a wetland showplace," said Kevin Nelms, a wildlife biologist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. "He genuinely wants his land to be the best wetland habitat it can be and is continually working to achieve that goal.

“Mr. Branning is always willing and ready to share his project with others and has become a great advocate and spokesperson for wetland restoration."

Although the restoration construction was completed in 2003, Branning, with part-time help, devotes more than 900 hours annually to wetland management. The property now boasts 2,675 acres of naturally flooded bottomland hardwoods and 757 acres of manageable wetlands.

He has fostered habitat for at least 43 different species of waterfowl, shorebirds, and wading birds, including threatened wood storks and bald eagles. Mr. Branning's conservation efforts have also significantly increased the effective habitat of the adjacent Delta National Forest.

Since 1989, the National Wetlands Awards program has honored exceptional individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary effort, innovation, and excellence in wetland conservation, research, or education through programs or projects at the regional, state, or local level.

Branning received the award, which is co-sponsored by the Environmental Law Institute, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USDA Forest Service, NOAA Fisheries, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in a ceremony in Washington on May 20.

"We are grateful for the exceptional efforts of these awardees," said Major General Carl A. Strock, Director of Civil Works, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "Their efforts to protect and preserve our nation's wetlands help sustain healthy aquatic habitats for diverse species of plants, fish, and wildlife. The well-being of natural communities is essential to the quality of our lives."

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com

Monsanto wins against Percy

The Supreme Court of Canada sided with Monsanto on Friday in its claim that Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser illegally planted genetically modified Roundup Ready canola in his fields in 1997. The ruling will likely have ramifications for other crops as well, since it further supports Monsanto's position that it can claim ownership, receive payment for, and control the use of specific genes in crop plants.

Since the lawsuit was brought against him, Mr. Percy had been a firebrand for anti GMO organizations around the world. Percy claims he never had a relationship with Monsanto until the company's Roundup Ready gene contaminated a field he used for his own saved canola seed. He traveled as far away as India in seeking support for his cause, receiving the Mahatma Gandhi Award for his efforts against Monsanto in October 2000.

Farmers in North America, most of whom have willingly adopted and paid the tech fee for Monsanto's Roundup Ready seeds, have been somewhat less sympathetic to Percy. That sentiment now seems further supported with the Canadian court's 5-4 ruling in favor of Monsanto.

While Monsanto wins the case, the company will not be awarded monetary damages from Percy as part of the ruling. Each party (Monsanto and Schmeiser) will absorb their own legal costs. However, the ruling does set a strong precedent that could allow Monsanto and other companies with gene patents to receive damages from farmers in future cases related to genetic trait ownership.

The official ruling from the Canadian court may be viewed at: http://www.lexum.umontreal.ca/csc-scc/en/com/2004/html/04-05-21.3.wpd.html To read more about Percy's side of the story, visit: www.geocities.com/newageinternational/GMOMonsanto.html

Smartweed hitting Arkansas rice

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Smartweed, always a concern for Arkansas rice farmers, has emerged as a serious problem this year, according to weed experts with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

Judging from the many calls they’re receiving and the complaints they’re hearing at meetings with farmers, the problem is widespread.

“We’ve had scattered fields with smartweed every year, but it seems worse this year. Everyone seems to have a smartweed problem this year,” says Ken Smith, Extension weed scientist.

Smith believes a mild winter and rainy spring have contributed to the problem. The winter never killed the weeds, he said, and the rain has insured their growth. Early burndown herbicides failed to kill the smartweeds present before planting. These weeds are much harder to control in the crop.

Smith said farmers complain they spray smartweeds with herbicides, but they keep coming back. “What we’re probably dealing with here is that the plant is regenerating itself from a rhizome, or well-developed underground stem,” Smith said.

The scientist said a smartweed plant can grow almost 3 feet tall and nearly as wide, making it a serious threat.

“Farmers can’t afford to ignore it. It can compete with a rice plant for light and nutrients, and push the rice plant out of the way, causing it to lodge and making it impossible to harvest. Smartweeds suck up expensive fertilizer that should be going to rice plants.”

Bob Scott, another Arkansas Extension weed scientist, said the emergence of smartweed this year could also be tied to a change in herbicide programs used by rice farmers.

Scott said farmers traditionally used propanil to control grasses after those grasses emerged. Propanil also helped control broadleaf weeds, including smartweed. Smith added that propanil mixed with Storm, another herbicide, was the standard for controlling smartweed and grass.

Smith said, “Aim herbicide is also effective on young smartweeds that have not developed a rhizome system. However, neither of these programs is effective for long-term control of older smartweeds.”

Now farmers rely on Command, a pre-emerge herbicide that’s more economical than propanil, according to Scott. It’s effective on grasses, but it has no control over broadleaf weeds. This may have led to a shift in weeds in many fields, especially no-till rice fields, he said.

“Smartweed and other broadleaf weeds such as ground cherry, pigweed and morningglory, have become more prevalent. But smartweed has really emerged as a problem, because we don’t have a good herbicide program to control it.”

Scott said products such as Duet, Storm and Aim and various combinations of those products have done a “fairly good job” of burning down smartweed before farmers flood their rice. However, the weeds often recover and grow back.

Newpath herbicide, when used with Clearfield rice, has shown promise. “At times it has shown good control on smartweeds, but control has been inconsistent. Clearfield growers have tank-mixed Aim or Duet with Newpath or made separate applications of Storm to improve smartweed control.”

Scott said farmers need rain to activate herbicides, but heavy rains can break down herbicides, leading to a loss in their effectiveness.

Lamar James is an Extension communications specialist with the University of Arkansas.

Tomato spotted wilt virus afflicts commercial growers

BATON ROUGE, La. — Tomato spotted wilt virus is causing losses to many tomato growers. “It appears that we will have a lot of problems if this continues,” says Tom Koske, LSU AgCenter horticulturist.

Symptoms of the disease typically include a cupping and rolling of the upper leaves which usually turn purple/brown along the veins. An internal spotting or browning of leaf tissue (spotted wilt) occurs frequently but is not always evident.

If the fruit are set prior to infection, they may be distorted or develop blotchy orange ring spots as they ripen.

Peppers, cucurbits and certain ornamentals also can be infected by a virus.

LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Ken Whitam explains that TSWV is transmitted by thrips and is not easily mechanically transmitted by rubbing. Juvenile thrips acquire the virus from infected weed hosts. They disperse it after becoming winged adults which feed on host and target plants.

Weed hosts identified as potential virus carriers include spiny Amaranthus, wild lettuce, pasture buttercup, Solanum sp. and sowthistle.

“These are all abundant in our state at the time tomatoes are in the field,” says LSU AgCenter commercial vegetable expert Jimmy Boudreaux. Surveys show higher incidence of the virus in parishes that border rivers in the state. This is probably because the weeds grow best in wet or moderately wet locations.

“Spotted wilt is difficult to control,” Whitman says, adding, “Unfortunately there is not much that anyone can do once the plant becomes infected.” He notes it is heartbreaking that TSWV shows up after most of the work on the tomato crop, such as tying, pruning and staking, has been completed.

The pathologist advises to spray early for thrips, recognize symptoms and remove problem plants and weed hosts from around the fields. He notes that the LSU AgCenter has been working with TSWV for the last several years. The easiest way to prevent this virus is to grow TSWV-resistant varieties.

“It is unfortunate that most of the TSWV tomato varieties are not real good eating tomatoes,” Boudreaux says, explaining that they are commercial varieties, which produce a lot of large, very firm and crack-resistant fruit.

“Seed companies are making progress, however, on better quality TSWV-resistant tomato varieties,” Boudreaux says, identifying the top two resistant tomato varieties in AgCenter demonstration plots as BHN 640 and Amelia.

BHN 640 is a medium-early variety with good yields of medium to large fruit with good fruit color. Amelia is a medium-early variety that produces medium to large fruit with good fruit color.

Sources: Tom Koske, 225-578-2222 or tkoske@agcenter.lsu.edu; James Boudreaux, 225-578-2222 or JBoudreaux@agcenter.lsu.edu; and Ken Whitam, 225-578-2186 or Kwhitam@agcenter.lsu.edu.

Running out of hay means lost profits for cattle producers

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — If you’re a cattle producer, the last thing you want to do is run out of hay in late December. Running out of hay can force a farmer to pay top dollar to out-of-state hay producers to make it through the winter. However, shortages can easily be prevented if you plan ahead, says John Jennings, forages specialist for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

“One of the best tools available for hay production is a soil test,” said Jennings. “Fertilizer applications based on soil tests will more likely match the crop nutrient need than an application based solely on rule-of-thumb.

"Proper fertilizer timing is also important. Forages such as bermudagrass can be harvested several times a season, so fertilizer can be applied several times a season to maintain good production.”

Fertilizer costs have been high in 2004, which may cause many producers to cut back on fertility applications. But fertilizer and weed control are two production factors farmers can use to increase yields.

“Spring weed control is important in bermudagrass and bahiagrass hay fields,” said Jennings. “Uncontrolled winter annual weed growth can cause yield loss in bermudagrass hay fields. Bermudagrass fields overseeded with ryegrass are susceptible to shading from late-spring ryegrass growth. Allowing ryegrass to remain too long can cause the loss of one cutting of bermudagrass hay.”

Managing pastures for stockpiled forages in fall and winter can reduce the amount of hay needed in winter, Jennings says. Bermudagrass pasture can be stockpiled from August through October for late fall grazing, and fescue pasture can be stockpiled from September through December for winter grazing.

Poor growing conditions with excessive weed competition and poor fertility levels can lead to hay shortages. Jennings says, “Dry weather is the most common cause of below-normal hay yields, but dry weather combined with weed pressure or low fertility causes more severe drops in yield.”

The ideal conditions for a good hay crop vary depending on the species. According to Jennings, for fescue, orchardgrass, clover, and ryegrass, moderate temperatures below 80 degrees with good fertility and moisture are needed. For bermudagrass and bahiagrass, moisture, fertility and high temperatures above 85 degrees are needed. Night-time temperatures below 60 degrees can greatly slow bermudagrass growth.

Hay crops in 2004 may have mixed results, Jennings warned. “Cool-season grasses produce most of their growth in spring. Some areas of the state had good growing conditions this spring, and the crop should be normal. Other areas were dry earlier this spring and may have a short hay crop. Warm-season grass growth has just started, so yields are unpredictable.”

If you have to buy hay, there are several factors to consider.

According to Jennings, most imported hay is fed to dairy cattle or horses. Quality is the key factor farmers should take into account when buying hay.

In 2002, Extension demonstrations documented that hay costs were 52 cents per head per day for good quality hay, but when hay quality was low and required supplementation, feed costs jumped to $1.22 per head per day.

Producers buying hay should ask for a hay quality test before buying. Producers selling good quality hay should get their hay tested as a marketing tool to justify the value of their hay.

“It’s important to produce or buy hay that meets the nutritional needs of the livestock being fed,” said Jennings. “Poor quality hay costs just as much to bale as good quality hay, but it costs more in the long run from lost animal production.”

Cody Ford writes for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. 501-671-2187

Aflatoxin among topics for June 10 Northeast Field Day

ST. JOSEPH, La. – Biological control of aflatoxin contamination in corn is one of the topics that will be discussed during the LSU AgCenter’s Northeast Research Station Field Day June 10.

Aflatoxin, a byproduct of a fungal infection that generally occurs in drought-stressed corn, has become a serious concern for Louisiana corn producers, said Bob Hutchinson, the LSU AgCenter’s regional director for Northeast Louisiana.

The fungus ripped through the state’s corn crop in 1998 and annually threatens large-scale economic harm. Because of its potential economic consequences, a variety of studies have been conducted, and LSU AgCenter scientists will discuss their aflatoxin research during the field day.

Other corn research projects that will be discussed during the field day include those focused on dual-row corn production and corn hybrid performance.

Researchers also will address new chemicals available for weed control with Clearfield rice, as well as weed management with transgenic cotton varieties, control of perennial weeds during the fall in corn and the latest in soybean weed control.

Rounding out the topics are reports on research concerning planting dates and irrigation in cotton, dual-row soybean production, early-season insect and nematode management with precision agricultural practices and planting dates for cotton and soybeans.

The field day begins at 8 a.m., and participants will board trailers to begin field tours of various research sites at the station at 8:15 a.m. The tours and discussions will end at about noon, when lunch will be served to conclude the field day.

For information, or to register, contact Donnie Miller at (318) 766-3769 or e-mail: dmiller@agcenter.lsu.edu

Denise Coolman is a writer for the LSU AgCenter.

e-mail: dcoolman@agcenter.lsu.edu

Corn+Soybean Digest

Soybean Rust Most Likely To Hit In July or August

With support from the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Protection Service, researchers at the University of Illinois are using sophisticated computer modeling to track the spread of the fungal disease known as Asian soybean rust.

In recent years, the aggressive form of the disease has moved from Asia to Africa and into parts of South America. It first showed up in Paraguay in 2001 and has now become a problem for many of the major soybean-growing areas in Brazil and Argentina. While not yet found in the United States, the recent introduction of the disease into South America raises the danger that it could eventually spread to the United States.

The latest computer models from the U of I study indicate, that the disease has most likely already spread to soybean-growing areas in Brazil and Venezuela located north of the equator, making it inevitable that rust will reach the U.S. in a relatively short time.

"Our work shows that the U.S. is at high risk once the pathogen that causes the disease expands its range into the northern part of South America," says aerobiologist Scott Isard from the Department of Geography at the U of I. "We have received credible reports that this has already happened, although the Brazilian government has not confirmed it so far. If it's already established there, we could even see rust in the U.S. as soon as the current growing season and certainly no later than a year or two down the road."

With an additional grant from the USDA's National Research Initiative, Isard is working with USDA plant pathologists Glen Hartman and Montes Miles at the U of I and agricultural meteorologist Joseph Russo from ZedX Inc. in Bellefonte, PA to further enhance the predictive capabilities of the models.

Isard notes that the model has already been used to track the past movement of rust from Asia into Africa in 1996 and the subsequent spread into South America in 2001.

"Using our model, we can pick a day and a source area and take a historic view of how rust has spread," he says. "With detailed weather information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), we can easily simulate where the spores will likely go."

Isard points out that most of the spores in the southern hemisphere are produced during late January and early February. Based on the computer model, there is no weather mechanism that will then bring the spores directly into the U.S. from that region.

"Once the disease moves into the northern hemisphere, all that changes," Isard says. "Then you have most of the spores produced during the height of the growing season in mid-summer, which coincides with the major growing season in the U.S. You also have different weather conditions, including hurricanes, which increase the likelihood it will spread north into the U.S."

According to Isard, the spread of rust requires the presence of a large number of soybean plants or other hosts, such as kudzu, and weather-related factors, such as wind currents and rain that can bring the spores down to the ground.

The scientists are also using the model to help assess the most likely times of the year and areas in the U.S. where the first epidemic will occur.

"Given what we know now, the most likely scenario is that it will happen during July or August in either the Appalachian region or the Corn Belt," Isard says. "It is less likely to show up in the Great Lakes States and Northeastern region. We hope that this assessment can help make more efficient use of the limited resources available for the scouting efforts."

Isard notes that the scenario will continue to change as the researchers add more biological information about rust and as it moves closer to the U.S.

He further points out that the fungus that causes rust cannot survive winter weather. It can, however, easily survive in kudzu plants along the coastal areas of the U.S.

"Rust will then spread into the interior during the soybean-growing season, but not to the same places every year," Isard says. "Based on historical weather data over the last 30 years, we predict that there would be outbreaks in about three of every four years in the major soybean areas."