Army worms launch latest attack on farm crops

This infestation of army worms shows the potential for damage they pose as they move through a field of brome grass or wheat. The army worms in many cases are stripping the brome grass down to the central rib of the blade, says Kevin Suderman, agronomist with Cooperative Grain & Supply. Photo courtesy of Kevin Suderman and CG&S. Click image to enlarge.


Just when you thought the freeze-damaged wheat couldn?t possibly be hurt anymore, along comes word that army worms are eating their way across the country as a final blow.

A final blow does sound like the logical outcome to most people when they first hear about army worms moving in. But Kevin Suderman, agronomist with Cooperative Grain & Supply, said the biggest damage from the hungry worms actually is being done to another important crop: brome grass for hay and pasture.

The sad fact, according to Suderman, is that the wheat in most cases is either ?gone? from the earlier damage, or it?s already ?made? the grain it?s going to, so the worm damage won?t do much.

But on the brome, army worms have been spreading here and there in locations ranging mostly from Canton to north and west of Lehigh and Durham into southern Dickinson County.

The army worms in many cases are stripping the brome grass down to the central rib of the blade.

That can amount to a lot of money with brome hay, along with all other hay, continuing in short supply. Suderman has heard of prices as high as $100 a ton for brome, with a share of the early crop and nearly exhausted remaining holdover supply being exported out of county, especially to the south and east.

The pests, a larval stage of a moth that laid its eggs in grass-type crops, can be around for four to five weeks, he said.

They can do further damage feeding on milo or corn, although ?the corn may be big enough to handle it.?

Suderman said the moist conditions and matted-over heavy vegetation of injured wheat and growing grasses helped give the army worms a good start.

Several generations of eggs can hatch. Army worms get their name by their appearance of moving out in mass in circular-type invasions.

Much of the milo and other spring crops are just now being planted with warmer weather and wind drying fields enough last week for farmers to begin getting crops in.

Suderman said farmers may find it profitable to spray field edges to keep army worms from moving in.

He said the army worms moved first into wheat that was planted early, and probably into wheat planted into corn stubble where the insects could gain a covering hold.

?A few guys sprayed their wheat, but I can?t say in any certainty that it made them money,? Suderman said.

Crop adjusters have told him they are seeing some wheat fields that look OK from the road, but when they get into them, the yields may be only five or six bushels per acre.

The farmers will have to be making some quick decisions on whether to cut wheat or ?let it go,? he said.

The decisions get tougher for farmers who didn?t insure wheat, he said. ?In either case, I don?t envy them.?

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