Texas Field Reports: Pest Populations Ramping up Around the State

    Dr. Ada Szczepaniec, Texas A&M AgriLife entomologist, scouts for sugarcane aphids on sorghum. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

    From backyards to planted acres, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologists said pest populations are on the rise around the state.

    Dr. Sonja Swiger, AgriLife Extension veterinary entomologist, Stephenville, said many pests emerged earlier than usual this year due to the weather, but populations and how long they stay will depend on the weather to come.

    If it remains mild with cool fronts and steady rains, some insect pests’ — like mosquitoes and horn flies — window of opportunity could widen. If hot, arid conditions persist, those species numbers would decline and survivors would be relegated to shady areas with some moisture, while other species, such as grasshoppers, would benefit from dry conditions.

    “Insects are dependent on temperature,” she said. “Perfect temperatures and conditions help them build populations up.”

    Swiger said horn flies have been bad in South Texas and house fly populations should be increasing soon. Ticks are another pest that could have a banner year due to conditions.

    Fire ants have had back-to-back years of good conditions and their numbers, at least from visual reports, Swiger said, are up after the past drought either reduced their numbers or drove them deep into the ground for moisture.

    On the crop side, Dr. Robert Bowling, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Corpus Christi, said farmers in South Texas and the Coastal Bend should be diligently scouting for several pests, including sugarcane aphids, bollworms, armyworms, stink bugs and mites.

    Bowling said the season started off early but slowly, as cool April temperatures kept sugarcane aphid numbers in check. But their numbers are starting to build on a field-by-field basis as weather becomes more conducive.

    Producers have applied insecticides in some areas, he said, as the pests are being seen in most fields but have not been at economic thresholds yet.

    “It’s not widespread right now, but there have been some fairly high populations in some fields,” he said. “So it’s extremely important to scout because their numbers can build at such a rapid pace.”

    Bowling said there have been reports of fall armyworm and bollworm moth flights in recent weeks. Producers should also be aware of stink bugs.

    “Those are pests producers should watch for as grains develop and head out,” he said.

    Bowling said producers should consider a combination spray to address bollworms, stink bugs and sugarcane aphids if one reaches an economic threshold and the others’ numbers appear to be rising rather than waiting to make separate applications.

    Producers can also monitor sugarcane aphid populations as they move north.

    Cotton aphids have presented a challenge to producers, but their numbers appear to be declining as predator numbers increase and unfavorable conditions arrive.

    A potentially big problem for cotton producers this year could be cotton fleahoppers, he said. Their numbers elevated sooner than usual this year and are increasing.

    “Producers would be well-advised to watch out for them,” he said.

    Corn farmers should be aware of mites because fields are especially susceptible during dry years, Bowling said.

    “Mites are typically on the underside of the corn leaf and there will be stippling, or tiny yellowish to white spotting on the upper side of leaves,” he said. “We haven’t seen their numbers get bad yet but they’re another pest that has high reproduction potential, so they can be a problem very quickly.”

    For more information, producers can visit Bowling’s website Better Yield in the Field to get access to newsletters and videos about a variety of field crop pests.

    AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

    CENTRAL: Chances of rain subsided due to high, intense winds. The need of moisture was growing. Rain will be very necessary in the next two weeks for successful corn and sorghum fields to produce. Moisture was also needed for cotton and summer grasses. Pastures and rangeland were in good condition, and producers were making the first hay cutting. Small-grain harvests were in full swing. Winter wheat was near harvest and some harvesting was underway in some areas.

    Cattle and other livestock prices remained in good condition. Ranchers were moving stocker cattle off oat and wheat grazing. Tanks and creeks were not showing signs of stress. Most counties reported good soil moisture. Overall crop, rangeland and pasture conditions were good.

    ROLLING PLAINS: Conditions were dry and windy. Cool snaps arrived late in the reporting period with severe wind gusts up to 50 mph causing loss of limbs and trees. Stocker cattle continued to move off wheat pasture as vegetation dried up. Pasture conditions were drying up quicker than normal.

    Wheat for grain matured very quickly over the past week and harvest could start soon. Canola harvest was ongoing. Peanuts were planted, and cotton producers were preparing for planting. Livestock were in good condition.

    COASTAL BEND: Windy conditions occurred with some scattered showers reported. Additional rainfall was needed as heavy winds decreased topsoil moisture. Corn was at full tassel for several weeks. Some corn and late-planted grain sorghum were starting to show signs of stress from lack of moisture. Wind also hindered pasture herbicide applications. Sugarcane aphid numbers were on the rise, and producers were spraying when needed. Pastures and livestock remained in good shape.

    EAST: Several counties received rain. The region received cooler weather, which caused a slowdown of warm-season grasses. Warm-season grasses were expected to make good growth due to the rains received once nighttime temperatures warm up. Winter pastures were maturing in Wood County. Some hay baling was in full swing in Cherokee County as producers took advantage of the clear weather.

    Producers in Marion County were putting in vegetable gardens. Pasture and range conditions were mostly fair to good. Only Shelby County reported poor conditions. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate in most counties. Shelby County reported short subsoil and Newton County reported very short topsoil conditions.

    Polk County received some stormy weather with varying amounts of rain, thunder, lightning and strong winds in advance of a late cool front. Some areas of Shelby County received 2 inches of rain.

    Wild pigs remained a problem in Cherokee, Shelby and Upshur counties. Livestock conditions remained mostly good. Cattle prices in Gregg County held steady. Livestock prices in Shelby County remained steady. Polk County reported a good crop of spring calves on the ground. Cattle work was underway in Smith County. Upshur County had wild pig, gopher and weed control underway.

    SOUTH PLAINS: Temperatures fluctuated with a passing cold front. The five-day forecast called for a chance of precipitation. Planting of corn, sorghum and a few fields of cotton began. Depending on field conditions, planting activity should increase rapidly. Corn has emerged.

    Warm weather helped growth in wheat fields, and the colder weather did not affect the overall health of the crop. Some fields showed signs of wheat streak mosaic and stripe rust. Also, some root rot was noted. Area pastures and rangelands were in fair to good condition and needed moisture. Subsoil and topsoil moistures were short to adequate.

    PANHANDLE: Conditions were warm, dry and windy. Temperatures were back to near normal with a few days hitting above normal. Moisture was received in some areas. Dallam and Hartley counties received 1.5-2 inches of rain and 7-12 inches of snow.

    Some wheat was laid down from the weight of the snow and high winds up to 50 mph. There was some concern about freeze damage and broken wheat stems. Much of the wheat that fell down returned upright, but there were spots still down. The cold snap killed some wheat and emerging corn. Many acres of wheat were being swathed down for hay and chopped for silage even before the weather event. Soil moisture was rated short to adequate.

    Corn planting was delayed due to wet soil conditions. Minimal livestock losses from spring storms were reported. Rangeland soil moisture was very good to start the growing season. Supplemental feeding ended as ranges had enough new grass to support cattle. Spring calving was winding down and breeding season should begin in the next several weeks.

    Deaf Smith County producers were busy planting corn and cotton acres. Corn planting was wrapping up so producers were concentrating on cotton and grain sorghum acres. Spray rigs were running hard and fast to apply pre-emergence herbicides to planted fields. Cold wet conditions pushed soil temperatures down and postponed planting of peanuts and cotton. Dry warm days were needed to get soil temperatures up to get planting underway. Cattle and pasture conditions continued to improve.

    NORTH: Topsoil and subsoil moisture levels ranged from mostly adequate to short with a few areas reporting surplus. A cold front came through and provided a small amount of rain. Hay meadows and pastures looked good, and producers were beginning to cut and bale. Corn, wheat and oats were doing well. Livestock were in good condition, but fly numbers were high on cattle. Wild hogs were causing some problems for livestock.

    A lot of damage was reported from Rains and Van Zandt counties due to the tornadoes that hit during the previous reporting period. Trees, barns, fences and livestock were destroyed and the clean-up was ongoing. Losses were in the millions of dollars.

    FAR WEST: Temperature highs were in the 90s with lows in the 50s. Precipitation reported for the week averaged between 0.06-0.36 of an inch. Soil moisture was beginning to dry out as windy conditions persisted. Corn and sorghum looked good. Wheat was maturing quickly.

    Producers were anxious to get cotton in the ground and a couple took advantage of early season moisture. However, cooler temperatures set the early crop back. General cotton planting should begin in another week to 10 days.

    Pastures were showing some stress from winds and lack of rain. Fire danger was moderately high due to winds and dry matter in pastures. Dried-up weeds around buildings and homes needed to be removed. Rangelands were still green with some heat stress on vegetation. Producers continued to work sheep and goats and continued to feed livestock and wildlife.

    WEST CENTRAL: Temperatures were up and down. Conditions were warm, dry and very windy with cool nights and no rainfall. Soil moisture was declining rapidly. Fire dangers were very high. Winter wheat fields were in fair condition, heading out and maturing early. Yield estimates were down from earlier expectations. Some producers were beginning wheat harvests early.

    Sorghum was in fair condition. Cotton planting was expected to begin within the next week or so depending on anticipated rainfall for soil moisture. Hay producers were getting ready to harvest their first cuttings. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition but showing some signs of drought stress. A good rainfall was needed to continue forage growth. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Cattle prices remained steady. Spraying of pecan trees will begin soon.

    SOUTHEAST: Producers were hoping for more rain than was received. Crops were progressing as expected, but corn could use another rain soon. Cotton and sorghum were doing fine, and livestock were in good condition. Farmers began baling hay and were expecting three cuttings for the season. Soil moisture levels throughout the region ranged widely from adequate to very short with most ratings in the adequate range.

    SOUTHWEST: Some areas in the district received rain, but topsoil was getting dry and grass was dried up already in some parts. Pasture growth was slowing down, and herbicide and fertilizer applications continued. Some producers were cutting wheat or getting ready for harvest. Rangeland and pastures remained in good condition. Livestock conditions remained good.

    SOUTH: Hot, dry and windy conditions persisted. A cool front made its way throughout the area but only brought temporary relief from the hot weather. There were a few light showers in some areas. Overall conditions were good for crops in most areas. Hay was baled. Livestock and wildlife throughout the area were reported to be in good condition. Warm temperatures continued with no rainfall in some areas.

    Wheat, potato and sweet corn harvests continued. Some corn was entering the silking stage, and cotton planting continued with 50 percent of the planted cotton emerged. Corn, sorghum and cotton fields were being irrigated due to dry conditions and strong winds. Pasture and rangeland conditions remained fair to good, but they could use some moisture. Some areas improved but others were declining rapidly due to hot, dry conditions, and some grasses were turning brown.

    Cattle body condition scores remained good. The live cattle market continued to run its course and with no price changes. Stock tanks needed rainfall to replenish. In Zavala County, spinach harvesting was completed, onion harvesting began, and corn and sorghum were reported to be mostly in good to excellent condition. A few late-planted cabbage fields will be harvested in the next 10 to 15 days. In Hidalgo County, harvesting of citrus and vegetables continued.

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