Severe fall armyworm infestation reported in Arkansas
Bermudagrass pastures newly revived by rain are disappearing.
"I've had calls from producers saying 'my grass is gone,'" Brent Griffin, Prairie County Extension Staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said.
The extreme heat and drought did in even the most summer hardy grasses.
"The dallisgrass, the crabgrass and fescue, the drought killed it," Griffin said. With the recent spate of cooler temperatures and rain, "the bermudagrass came out and grew."
So much so that "people went to mowing yards and baling hay," Griffin said. The next day, some people found no lawn.
The suspect? Fall armyworms. The tiny larvae may have been feeding for days before the damage showed up.
"People that mowed, should've waited two days and they wouldn't have had to mow," he said.
That's what happened to John Jennings, professor-forage for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. Because of a work obligation, he was unable to spray his lawn in time.
"They took it all in less than a day," Jennings said of his lawn. "It's just stubs."
Because fall armyworms work so fast, Extension experts recommend scouting to catch the larvae while still small. Clues include flocks of birds feeding in the field, seeking out the armyworms for food, or fields that look "frosted," caused by the newly hatched caterpillars chewing only the green underside of the leaves or the grass blade tips.
"If they see any damage or windowpaning, people should scout their fields or lawns," Jennings said. "It can go from frosted tips to nothing in two days."
"While the birds are a good indicator, the worms are fairly large at that point," he said. "In their best pastures, producers need to be watching for those frosted tips."
Jennings also advised producers to keep an eye on patches of crabgrass and broadleaf signalgrass as well because armyworms often show up in those grasses first.
Fall armyworms are being reported in Baxter, Benton, Faulkner, Independence, Prairie, Pulaski and throughout southwest Arkansas.
To learn more about managing armyworms, see "Managing Armyworms in Pastures and Hayfields," FSA7083, available from your county Extension office, or online at www.uaex.edu/Other_Areas/publications/PDF/FSA-7083.pdf.
For more information about crop production, contact your county Extension office, or visit www.uaex.edu.