Burke – Jenkins Ag News

Fall Armyworms in Bermudagrass

This has been the hardest year ever to achieve a successful hay cutting. With the large amount of rain that the state and county has received, hay cutting has been a challenge. Nevertheless, most of our hay producers have gotten through their first cutting.

Armyworms are starting to show up in the county. I would not say that every hay field is covered with them, but I do caution producers to keep a close eye on their investment. Dr. Dennis Hancock, UGA Forage Specialist sent us this advisement regarding fall armyworm management.

Dr. Dennis Hancock:

In general, Fall Armyworm (FAW) infestations are at treatable levels in most counties south of the Fall Line.

We’re getting a bit of a double whammy. There are a lot of hay fields that haven’t even been cut the first time because of the rainy weather. By now, we would typically have made the second cutting (or even third in far south GA).

The problem that this poses is that getting the insecticide to penetrate into such a thick biomass is nigh impossible. Plus, many areas have been taken over by tall growing weeds (johnsongrass, vaseygrass, etc.), which will pose major problems, as the spray booms are unlikely to clear many of those patches.

Some are reporting that complete fields have been stripped and that only the stems remain. This obviously poses a major economic loss, but if producers do not act, the effects could ruin the next cutting. I do not think we should just let it try to regrow with the stripped stems in the field. This is a bad idea. First, even if the fields have been stripped of leaves, the stems remaining will still be too much biomass to leave in the field. This residue will severely reduce bermudagrass productivity. Bermudagrass does not tolerate shade and will not grow well through such residue. Even if it did grow through it, all those mature and defoliated stems would severely reduce the quality of the resulting harvest. If you are facing this challenge, the only real option is to cut and bale off/remove the stripped stems. The quality of this will be extremely poor, but it would be necessary to get it off the field to protect the next cutting.

There are several insecticides available for armyworm control. As always, follow label instructions