AMARILLO – As temperatures warm up across the wheat regions of the state and the crop comes out of dormancy, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologist said it is time to begin scouting fields for insect pests.
Dr. Ed Bynum, AgriLife Extension entomologist in Amarillo, said producers need to be scouting for greenbugs, bird cherry-oat aphids and Russian wheat aphids, especially throughout the High Plains. Those three are the most common wheat pests dealt with annually.
Bynum said a producer and Scott Strawn, AgriLife Extension agent in Ochiltree County, have also found army cutworms in a wheat field.
“While army cutworms are normally not a big problem, we do recommend treating if the pressure increases,” he said.
If the wheat is in good condition, then the threshold for treating army cutworms is four or more per square foot, Bynum said. If wheat is just coming out of dormancy or under moisture stress, the threshold is two or more larvae per square foot.
He said decisions to treat for both greenbugs and the aphids should be based on established economic thresholds found in his Texas Panhandle Pest News, http://bit.ly/1U1ZFud.
Another insect of concern, Bynum said, is winter grain mites, which were found in a field near Bushland. They can be a pest of wheat, barley, oats and rye.
He said damage symptoms begin as speckled yellow spots on the leaf similar to spider mite damage on corn leaves, but progresses; the tips of the leaves turn brown, plant stunting with a silvery-grey appearance and even plant death.
No thresholds are available for making control decisions on winter grain mites, Bynum said. Activity from these pests is expected to decline when temperatures exceed 75 degrees, so treatment will be a judgement call based on signs of damage and expected temperatures.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
CENTRAL: Counties in the region reported needing moisture to help the small grains. Corn, sorghum and milo were being planted. Landowners were putting out fertilizer. Livestock remained in good conditions with supplemental feeding, and cattle started backing off of the hay. Winter wheat was growing with warmer weather. Trees were budding. Grass started growing in the last few weeks and pasture conditions were improving greatly. Tanks were full and rivers were flowing. Insect populations were still low.
ROLLING PLAINS: The weather has been more like spring with temperatures reaching close to 80 degrees, accompanied by lots of wind. This weather pattern was beneficial to the winter weeds, and farmers were making plans to control the weeds and clean up fields before planting season. Pastures and rangeland were beginning to green up as grasses started to emerge. The winter wheat crop was improving daily. Some ranchers moved cattle to winter wheat while others were looking at baling up the crop for future use. Livestock were in good condition as supplemental feeding was only occurring on a small scale.
COASTAL BEND: Temperatures were unseasonably warm. Soil moisture conditions were adequate, but rain was in the forecast and producers were hoping to increase the moisture levels. Corn and sorghum planting continued, with some emergence. Cotton and some rice planting started. Pastures declined with late dormancy and needed a good rain. Cattle remained in good condition with market prices down a little.
EAST: Abnormally warm conditions continued around the region. Pasture and range conditions were mostly reported as fair to good. Cool-season forages were making good growth with the warmer days and recent rainfall. Soil samples were being collected for spring pastures. Grass planting was beginning. Subsoil and topsoil were still adequate in all reporting counties. Windy conditions were drying out topsoil. Fertilization of pastures continued and herbicide applications have started. Fruit trees started to bloom. Pruning of peach trees was near completion. Pecan producers were fertilizing and cleaning up orchards. Livestock were doing fair to good with some supplementation. Cattle were slowing down on eating hay and were looking for something green. Spring calving continued. Many producers were turning out bulls on spring calving herds. Selling of market-ready calves and cull cows continued. Cattle prices were seeing improvement. Fly populations were starting to build.
SOUTH PLAINS: Very little precipitation received in recent months was taking its toll on crop conditions. Soils were drying and rain was needed to keep soil from blowing. Cochran County subsoil and topsoil moisture levels continued to dry out due to high winds and warmer temperatures. Pastures, rangeland and winter wheat all needed moisture. Producers were preparing for spring planting. Floyd County producers were busy in the fields preparing to plant cotton. In Garza County, no rainfall was received this week, but was needed. Conditions were dry and rainfall is essential in the next few weeks for farmers to have enough soil moisture to prepare their land for planting and to start the growth of warm season grasses. Livestock were in mostly good condition with supplemental feeding in pastures that were short on forage. Range conditions were mostly good for this time of year. Many counties reported unseasonably warm conditions and windy conditions. Field work continued. In Lubbock County, the weather was warm and dry with no freezing temperatures and a chance for rain showers on several days in the five-day forecast. Minimum soil temperatures at the 2-inch depth were currently averaging 56 degrees. Field operations included stalk shredding and applying fertilizers and preplant herbicides. The wheat crop remained good in most places, although early greenbug control was noted last week via aerial applications. In Yoakum County, oats were just starting to break the soil surface. Winter wheat under irrigation looked excellent and the dryland wheat conditions were mostly good.
PANHANDLE: Warm, dry and windy conditions took place, with temperature again above average for most of the week. No moisture was received. Rain was needed throughout the region. Field work in preparation for spring planting was active across the region. Cropping intentions were still variable with many producers having a difficult time making firm planting decisions. Weed issues were already beginning for the upcoming year. Dallam, Hartley and Deaf Smith counties began irrigating wheat. Dryland wheat looked good but will need moisture soon. Stocker cattle started coming off wheat and were headed to market in some areas, while others were adding cattle to wheat pastures as the growth advanced. Cattle were heavy after gaining well on wheat. Spring calving conditions were very good with dry and mild weather. New calves were getting off to a great start. Supplemental feeding continued. Range and pastures varied in ratings from excellent to poor with most reporting fair to good. Ranges needed rain and wildfire risk remained high.
NORTH: Topsoil moisture varied from short to adequate to surplus. The weather was unusually warm with mild temperatures. A cool front moved through the county early in the week dropping night temperatures by about 10 degrees to the 40s. Some farmers decided to take advantage of the window of opportunity and were busy planting corn the end of last week and through the weekend in fields that were dry enough. Wheat was looking much better after the rain last week and fertilizer that was applied prior to the rains. Winter annual pastures also looked much better and cattle ranchers turned the cattle back in on these pastures with the week of dry weather. Livestock were slowing down on the hay consumption due to clover and ryegrass growth. Wild hogs were still causing damage. Cattle prices seemed to be rising.
FAR WEST: Glasscock County had an increase in leaf and stripe rust on wheat. Soil moisture continued to decrease due to warm temperatures and high winds. A good portion of the wheat crop reached first hollow stem, but some of the latest planted was still a little behind. Producers continued to prepare ground for the upcoming cotton, corn and sorghum crops with a few having already started pre-watering but most were holding off a while longer. Fields in the northern part of Pecos County were being irrigated. Presidio County continued to be hot and dry with high fire danger and red flag warnings. Bulls were being put out with cow herds. Most herds finished calving and pastures were very dry with weeds providing the only green for livestock. Ward County was warm and dry with winter weeds sprouting after rainfall. Throughout the district, pasture and range conditions were fair to poor with livestock and wildlife continuing to receive supplemental feed. Subsoil and topsoil moisture were short.
WEST CENTRAL: Warm, dry, windy conditions with cool nights continued this week. Much-needed rain was expected in the coming week. Field activities continued to increase as producers prepared fields for spring planting and putting out fertilizers and pre-emergent herbicides. Winter weeds were coming on strong and producers were spraying to get control. Most wheat was in fair condition and growing well. Moisture levels were going down and crops needed rain soon to keep progressing. Range and pastures were in fair condition and were improving as winter grasses began to grow. Fields were beginning to green up. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Winter wheat was being grazed. Cattle prices were holding steady. Redbud and fruit trees were beginning to bloom.
SOUTHEAST: In Walker County, the forage growth was looking good. Planting conditions were optimum at this time for vegetable gardens and other warm season crops. Grimes County experienced mild temperatures. The dry days provided excellent conditions for field work. In Montgomery County, the warm temperatures during the day and cool nights were helping winter annuals. Many landowners were planning to plant in the next couple of weeks. Chambers County growers started to plant rice. Some areas in the county were drying out, but some areas were still wet from the last couple of rains. Rain was expected over the next couple of days, so planting was expected to slow down for a couple weeks. In Fort Bend County, row crop producers were busy planting corn and grain sorghum. About 95 percent of corn has been planted with the majority emerged. About 30-40 percent of grain sorghum has been planted. Additional rain was expected next week, which will halt planting again. Livestock were in good condition. Soil-moisture levels throughout the region varied widely, mostly in the adequate to surplus range. Fort Bend, Chambers, Brazos and Walker counties reported 100 percent adequate moisture. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied widely too, mostly from fair to poor.
SOUTHWEST: Recent rain was good but it started to dry up. Soil moisture continued to be limited with winter grasses slowing growth. Some area foliage, cropland and forage were showing signs of a recent hail storm. The dry and warm conditions allowed row crop producers to begin planting corn, and some milo was planted as well. It was nice weather for lambing and kidding. Fly populations on livestock were on the increase and supplemental feeding continued.
SOUTH: Range and pastures were beginning to look good and green throughout the region, but many areas were going to need rain very soon, as persistent high winds dried grasses and soil moisture. In the northern parts of the region, areas showed good signs of spring approaching. Bermuda grass pastures were good and green. Mild temperatures continued. Corn planting continued, and potato and wheat irrigation started. Fields in Live Oak County were difficult to work after rainfall last week. Soil moisture conditions improved over the northern section of McMullen County with an average of 2.5 inches of rainfall. The south part of the region remained dry with only about 0.5 inches of rainfall received this past week. Winter annual grasses showed good signs of growth and summer perennial grasses showed signs of greening up or coming out of dormancy. Body condition scores on cattle remained in fair condition. In the eastern part of the region, crops and pastures were turning green. No precipitation was received, although rainfall was forecast. Farmers were waiting for rain to resume planting. Wheat fields were beginning to show signs of lack of moisture. Livestock conditions were fair to good. Sorghum planting continued and cotton planting began in the Kleberg/Kenedy county area. In the western part of the region, dry conditions continued. Range and pastures remained green in some areas and dry and discolored in other areas. Some planting of corn and sorghum took place. Producers were taking advantage of good subsoil moisture. Also in Zavala County, some replanting of cabbage and spinach was reported throughout parts of the county as a result of the damage endured from the hail storms. Overall range and pastures remained fair, and light supplemental feeding took place throughout the area. In the southern part of the region, range and pastures dried up rather quickly as a result of high winds in that part of the region. Cotton, grain sorghum and corn producers planted most of their crops, and all crops were germinating well throughout the area. In Hidalgo County, cotton planting was active, grain sorghum planting continued, as did sugarcane and citrus harvesting. Irrigation of crops was active.