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Armyworms invading pastures, hayfields

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Mississippi forage producers are experiencing a major invasion of fall armyworms for the second consecutive year in pastures and hay fields across the state.

Blake Layton, a Mississippi State University Extension Service entomologist, said fall armyworm populations were unusually heavy last year with treatable populations reaching North Mississippi relatively early in the year and eventually extending into Tennessee. In 2010, the southern part of Mississippi needed treatments starting in early June.

“Fall armyworms can cause heavy forage losses, especially in highly managed bermudagrass hay fields,” Layton said. “Growers need to check hay fields and pastures regularly. Failure to detect and treat a developing fall armyworm infestation in a timely manner can result in the loss of a cutting of hay or loss of valuable grazing.”

Layton said protecting forage from fall armyworms can require a lot of spraying. Some producers make six or more treatments during heavy fall armyworm years.

Rick Simmonds, a producer in Noxubee County, said armyworms have been at near-record levels on his farm.

“We didn’t expect to see that many so soon. We had to treat much earlier than normal,” Simmonds said. “They can do a lot of damage very quickly, but sprays are effective if you catch the field in time.”

Extension forage and grazing systems specialist Rocky Lemus said the armyworms arrived just as pastures and fields were recovering from the harsh winter.

Adequate rainfall and warm temperatures have helped most pastures recover. Growers now are turning their attention to weed control and fertilizer needs.

As the fall approaches and producers begin thinking about cool-season forages, Lemus said armyworms can be a problem in early-planted ryegrass or small grains. The recommended planting dates for winter annuals in southern Mississippi are from early September to late October. In northern Mississippi, winter annuals are sod-seeded in mid-September to late October. Producers can overseed warm-season grasses in the southern part of the state in November.


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