Southern Grain Crops: Pests Stirring

©Debra L Ferguson Stock Photography

Here are Southern grain reports gleaned from our most recent issues of AgFax Midsouth Cotton, AgFax Southeast Cotton and AgFax Rice.

High points:

  • Insects are stirring a bit. We still aren’t hearing about widescale treatments for anything, although some localized situations continue. Case in point: stink bug pressure in Louisiana, especially redbanded stink bugs in south Louisiana where beans make an earlier start.
  • Bollworm numbers have been building in places, mainly in corn, but trap counts have been relatively high in places.
  • Fall armyworms continue to vex Midsouth growers, particularly in Arkansas where worms bridged from late-treated grass into young soybeans.
  • Also of note: Reports of dicamba-damaged soybeans continue filter through comments from people in the field. This is mainly happening in the Midsouth.


Curt Johnson, CRC Ag Consulting, LLC, Lake Village, Arkansas

“Our soybeans range from not blooming to almost at R5. The majority are at R3 to R4. No insect pressure whatsoever. I’ve been steadily scouting but have only been finding a handful of stink bugs. Redbanded stink bugs are out there, too, but I might find one of them out of every 1,000 stink bugs I turn up.

“Where I have found stink bugs, it’s been southern greens and I might count 10 or 12 all day. A few armyworms and green clover worms are around but not enough to even think about treating.”

Jeremy Greene, Clemson University Cotton Entomologist, Blackville, South Carolina

“In soybeans, it’s worth checking for threecornered alfalfa hoppers (3CAH), even if plants are still in the vegetative stage. Last year – and after the fact – we discovered 3CAH damage when plants started falling over due to girdling. That was mainly in Calhoun and Orangeburg Counties.

“Drake Perrow, producer and consultant near Cameron, observed 1 corn earworm (CEW) larvae per row foot in peanuts – they might have been mixed with tobacco budworm (TBW), so pressure from various species of caterpillars is coming.

“Because CEW and TBW larvae are almost identical, know how to tell the moths apart. This is important in soybeans later, not so much for peanuts because I think they were going to use Prevathon, a good choice of insecticide for both species in peanuts. Although the pyrethroids might be losing effectiveness on CEW, we still might get some control, especially when going after stink bugs later.”

“Andrew Warner, Hampton County Extension Agent, observed some kudzu bugs in soybeans this week. The fungus Beauveria bassiana has greatly reduced numbers of kudzu bugs, but they are still here and could be an issue. You have to scout. Andrew also saw a few small caterpillars in the field (probably green cloverworms), and we will spend more time in the coming weeks talking about identifying moths and caterpillars.”

Gus Lorenz, Arkansas Extension IPM Specialist

“In soybeans we’re seeing a fall armyworm (FAW) outbreak. It’s mainly in our central Delta area – England, Stuttgart, Pine Bluff, Altheimer. This almost always gets back to cases where growers planted beans into grass that was hosting the worms. By the time farmers burned down the grass, the beans had emerged, so worms moved from the grass to the crop.

“Primarily, they were on broadleaf signal grass. By the time growers sprayed, most beans were at V2 to V3. For control at that point a pyrethroid is what you’d use. I hate to say that because pyrethroids can disrupt beneficials just as we need them to deal with bollworms, which already are out there. But it’s the cheapest option and it will control the worms.

“This is pretty widespread and FAW are eating beans down to nothing in extreme cases. In places, we’re finding 2 to 3 per plant. Anyone who’s still planting soybeans should scout for worms in grass and include the pyrethroid with the burndown.

“As I just mentioned, we’re seeing bollworms here and there. It’s nothing bad yet, maybe 2 to 3 per 25 sweeps in a lot of fields. But based on what we’re finding now, we could see pretty good numbers in late June or early July.

“Stink bugs are on the increase in our earliest planted beans and plenty of egg masses are evident in R3 to R4 beans. Some fields are at treatment level and others are at about 50% of threshold. These stink bugs are greens and southern greens in south Arkansas. Above Interstate 40 they’re greens. We’re not seeing a lot of redbanded stink bug activity yet.

“Some southwestern corn borer (SWCB) hot spots have been evident. In places, trap counts are high. That said, in other places the counts are low to nonexistent. We have more conventional corn in the state this year, so be mindful of SWCB since there’s no trait to protect the plant.

“Trying to base decisions on trap counts can be tricky because numbers can be very localized. If you don’t have traps, you might be flying a little blind. Our county agents are putting out traps and providing numbers. But if the closest trap from you is halfway across the county, who knows if those numbers apply to your fields as well?

“If they are thick where you are, you definitely need to treat. But some guys are putting out an early tassel shot as insurance. This is one of those research areas that needs to be further refined, I’ll admit, whether that means testing a higher concentration of traps or changes in the way you monitor traps. I’m also afraid this year that some folks got their traps out after moths moved through, so they might be under the impression that they’re okay.”

Scott Stewart, Extension Entomologist, Jackson, Tennessee

“In soybeans, 3CAH numbers have reportedly gone up in some seedling soybeans. They tend to be a problem in late planted no-till beans, like behind wheat and particularly in thin stands. Typically, a thunderstorm will come through in mid to late June and plants that have been girdled will fall over. This doesn’t happen as much in thicker, robust stands because neighboring plants keep girdled plants from tipping over.

“When you see plants fall over, the underlying damage usually occurred before plants were 8 to 10 inches tall, so it’s too late to spray. I’ve posted a blog item on this to provide more information.”

Hank Jones, C&J Ag Consulting, Pioneer, Louisiana

“I have some beans at R3 and we’re starting our fungicide program. No insects yet. I swept 800 to 900 times today (6/12) on one farm and hardly found anything.

“Corn has really thrived in this wet weather. Some will likely be in dough next week. With this much rain, we’ve probably avoided 3 irrigations. Most everybody watered once. If we miss rain today, we’ll kick in the wells tomorrow.”

Ty Edwards, Edwards Ag Consulting, LLC, Water Valley, Mississippi

“We caught a really early planting window for soybeans and they’re pretty much laid by and the final herbicide has gone out unless something escapes. Our most advanced beans are at 15 nodes and R2.”

Tyler Sandlin, Extension Crop Specialist, North Alabama, Belle Mina

“We’ve moved into drier weather, which has been great for farmers with wheat, and they’ve been able to harvest a big chunk of it. I’m hearing about very respectable wheat yields, and a lot of guys have been reporting 85 to 100 bu/acre averages.

“Much of the crop was planted in a drought last fall, so some seed laid there for 4 to 5 weeks before it germinated. A few guys also waited until it rained so they could plant into moisture, and that part of the crop came up on the late side, too. As it turned out, that was an advantage. When a late freeze hit, most of our wheat wasn’t far enough along for it to matter, plus the mild winter allowed plants to tiller more than you typically expect. With the mild spring and plentiful moisture the wheat filled out well.”

Sebe Brown, Northeast Louisiana Region Extension Entomologist

“A really large bollworm flight came through and we’re seeing the results of that in corn. Pretty much every ear we’ve sampled had injury or a worm in it. That seems to be the case through much of the Midsouth and even into Texas. This may be a little earlier than normal for bollworms, and that may be due to a warmer winter. This indicates that we could encounter more bollworms in other crops later.”

Kyle Skinner, Skinner Ag, Starkville, Mississippi

“Soybeans have been spread out just like cotton. We’re still planting beans but also have MG IVs that date back to April 10 and they have good size pods now. Some of our MG Vs are starting to bloom.”

Harold Lambert, Independent Consultant, Innis, Louisiana

“For the last 4 weeks we’ve been in a weather pattern with far too much rain. Some cotton has yet to be planted on heavier ground and as of this afternoon (6/12) it probably will shift to soybeans.

“In many fields we haven’t been able to apply herbicides in a timely manner. This has been very frustrating for my growers. Most everything has had to go out by air, and the applicators have been running behind.

“Conditions were actually very favorable up until about 4 weeks ago – mild temperatures and timely rains. We couldn’t have asked for better. And we’ve seen worse starts to a crop, with years when no rain fell in April or May and temperatures were so hot you could hardly touch light textured soils.

“A lot of those hot, dry starts were in the late 1990s and into the early 2000s. But in the 1980s we had more seasons like this with persistent rain. I recall that 1984 was a particularly wet year and the next year was almost as bad.”

Ron Smith, Alabama Extension Entomologist

“A lot of corn in the Montgomery area is holding nearly full-size corn earworm larvae in the ears. We’ve been catching a surprisingly high number for this part of the South. Our trapping site in Elmore County yielded 70 or so in a week. By Midsouth standards, that’s not many. But in this part of the Alabama that’s quite a bit.”

The Latest