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Considerations to Make before Planting Wheat this Fall – Wheat Disease and Pest Update – 09/07/2021

Amanda de Oliveira Silva, Small Grains Extension Specialist and Tom Royer, Extension Entomologist

Planting date: Much of the winter wheat sown in Oklahoma is used as a dual-purpose crop. In such a system, wheat is grazed by cattle from late fall through late winter/early spring and then harvested for grain in early summer. In a grain-only system, wheat is generally planted in October, but in a dual-purpose system wheat is planted in early to mid-September to maximize forage production. Planting wheat early significantly increases the likelihood that diseases and insect pests such as mite-transmitted viruses, the aphid/barley yellow dwarf complex, root and foot rots, and Hessian fly will be more prevalent and severe. For more detailed information on planting date and seed treatment considerations on wheat, see CR-7088 (Effect of Planting Date and Seed Treatment on Diseases and Insect Pests of Wheat).

Mite-transmitted virus diseases: These virus diseases are transmitted by wheat curl mites (WCMs) (Figure 1), and include wheat streak mosaic (WSM), high plains disease (HPD), and Triticum mosaic (TrM). Of these, WSM is the most common. WCMs and these viruses survive in crops such as wheat, corn, and sorghum as well as many grassy weeds and volunteer wheat. In the fall and spring, WCMs spread to emerging seedling wheat, feed on that seedling wheat, and transmit virus to the young wheat plants.
Given this disease cycle, it is easy to see several factors that determine the incidence and severity of these diseases. First, controlling volunteer wheat and other grassy weeds that serve as alternative hosts for the mite and the viruses is imperative to help limit these diseases. Often an infected field of commercial wheat is growing immediately adjacent to a field left fallow during the fall and winter (Figure 2). The fallow field contained abundant volunteer wheat and grassy weeds from which WCMs carrying Wheat streak mosaic virus (WSMV) spread into the commercial field. Wheat infected in the fall will be severely damaged the next spring. Wheat infected in the spring also is damaged, but not as severely as wheat infected in the fall. Hence, it is imperative to do yourself and your neighbors a favor by controlling volunteer wheat and grassy weeds in fields left fallow – especially, if they are adjacent to commercial wheat fields.
A second factor linked to the severity of these mite-transmitted virus diseases is planting date. Early planting dates associated with grazing provides for a much longer time period in the fall for mites to spread to and infect seedling wheat. Planting later in the fall (after October 1 in northern OK and after October 15 in southern OK) and controlling volunteer wheat are the two practices that can be employed to help manage these diseases. It is extremely critical that volunteer wheat is completely dead for at least two weeks prior to planting wheat because WCMs have a life span of 7-10 days. Thus, completely killing or destroying volunteer wheat for a period of at least two weeks prior planting will greatly reduce mite numbers in the fall.
The incidence and severity of these mite-transmitted virus diseases as affected by planting date can be illustrated by the number of samples that tested positive for WSMV and HPV during each of the last three years. In 2017, which was the last year mite-transmitted virus diseases were prevalent in Oklahoma, 103 wheat samples were tested by the Plant Disease and Insect Diagnostic Lab at OSU for presence of mite-transmitted viruses. Of these 103 samples, 69 (67%) tested positive for WSMV and 22 (21%) tested positive for HPV. In 2018, only 12 of 126 (10%) samples tested positive for one or both of these viruses. In 2019, only 21 samples were submitted for testing with 7 samples (33%) testing positive for WSMV (no positives for HPV). In 2020, few samples (less than 5) tested positive for any of these viruses. This lower number of positive samples in 2019 and 2020 likely was the result of an overall later planting date of wheat in the fall of 2018 due to wet conditions and in fall 2020 due to extremely dry conditions. I believe this later planting date in conjunction with more awareness and action in limiting the green bridge helped to lower the incidence and severity of the mite-transmitted viruses in Oklahoma in both 2019 and 2020.
Finally, seed treatments and insecticides are NOT effective in controlling the mites or these mite-transmitted virus diseases. Regarding resistant varieties, there are several winter wheat varieties that have resistance to either WSM or the curl mites, but the adaptation of these varieties to Oklahoma is limited, and the resistance is not typically an absolute resistance to the disease. Hence, severe and continuous disease pressure especially at higher temperature (greater than about 75 F) can overcome the resistance. For more information on mite-transmitted virus diseases, see OSU Fact Sheet EPP-7328 (Wheat Streak Mosaic, High Plains Disease and Triticum Mosaic: Three Virus Diseases of Wheat in Oklahoma).

Figure 1. Wheat curl mites and symptoms of wheat streak mosaic.
Figure 2. A commercial wheat field (right) growing adjacent to a field (left) in which volunteer wheat and grassy weeds were not controlled until the spring. The commercial field begin to show WSM symptoms in late March and the disease became severe as the spring progressed.

Aphid/barley yellow dwarf (BYD) complex:  Viruses that cause BYD are transmitted by many cereal-feeding aphids (Figure 3).  BYD infections that occur in the fall are the most severe because virus has a longer time to damage plants as compared to infections that occur in the spring. 

Several steps can be taken to help manage BYD.  First, a later planting date (after October 1 in northern Oklahoma and after October 15 in southern Oklahoma) helps reduce the opportunity for fall infection. Second, some wheat varieties tolerate BYD better than other varieties; however, be aware that no wheat variety has a high level of resistance to the aphid/BYD complex.  For a listing of reaction of wheat varieties to BYD, other diseases and insect pests, and agronomic traits there are several sources available including variety comparison charts from Oklahoma State University (www.wheat.okstate.edu) and Kansas State University (https://bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF991.pdf), and the annual wheat variety publication titled, “Wheat Varieties for Kansas and the Great Plains by Layton Ehmke (34 Star Publishing Inc.;  layton@34starpublising.comhttps://thewheatfarmer.com; 1-844-643-0170).  Third, control aphids that transmit the viruses that cause BYD.  This can be done by applying contact insecticides to kill aphids, or by treating seed before planting with a systemic insecticide.  Unfortunately, by the time contact insecticides are applied, aphids frequently have already transmitted the viruses that cause BYD. Systemic seed-treatment insecticides containing imidacloprid or thiamethoxam can control aphids during the fall after planting.  This may be particularly beneficial if wheat is planted early to obtain forage. Be sure to thoroughly read the label before applying any chemical.

Figure 3. Spot in field (left) of barley yellow dwarf (BYD) as would be seen in March or April. Many types of aphids (for example, greenbug; right) transmit the viruses that cause BYD.

Hessian fly:  Hessian fly (Figure 4) infestations can occur in the fall and spring.  Fall infestations arise from over-summering pupae that emerge when climate conditions become favorable.  In states north of Oklahoma, a “Hessian fly free” planting date often is used to help limit fall infestations by Hessian fly.  However, such a planting date does not apply in Oklahoma because Hessian fly can emerge in Oklahoma as late as December (Figure 5).

Delayed planting (after October 1 in northern Oklahoma, and after October 15 in southern Oklahoma) can help reduce the threat of Hessian fly, but a specific “fly free date” does not exist for most of Oklahoma as it does in Kansas and more northern wheat-growing states.  This is because smaller, supplementary broods of adult flies emerge throughout the fall and winter.  A number of varieties are resistant to Hessian fly; for a listing of reaction of wheat varieties to Hessian fly, other diseases and insect pests, and agronomic traits there are several sources available including variety comparison charts from Oklahoma State University (www.wheat.okstate.edu) and Kansas State University (https://bookstore.ksre.ksu.edu/pubs/MF991.pdf), and the annual wheat variety publication titled, “Wheat Varieties for Kansas and the Great Plains by Layton Ehmke (34 Star Publishing Inc.; layton@34starpublising.comhttps://thewheatfarmer.com; 1-844-643-0170).  Hessian fly infestations can be reduced somewhat by destroying volunteer wheat in and around the field at least two weeks prior to emergence of seedling wheat.  Seed treatments that contain imidacloprid or thiamethoxam will also help reduce fall infestations of seedling wheat, especially if combined with delayed planting and volunteer destruction.  For more information on Hessian fly, see OSU Fact Sheet: EPP-7086 (Hessian fly Management in Oklahoma Winter Wheat).

Figure 4. Adult Hessian fly (left) and larvae and pupae of the Hessian fly (right).
Figure 5. Emergence of Hessian fly in Oklahoma by month from 2011-2013.

Root and foot rots:  These are caused by fungi and include several diseases such as dryland (Fusarium) root rot, Rhizoctonia root rot (sharp eyespot), common root rot, take-all, and eyespot (strawbreaker).  Every year samples are received in the lab that are diagnosed with root rot.  Typically wheat affected by seedling/root rots are either submitted in the fall when wheat is in the seedling stage or in later May and early June as plants are maturing.  Germinating seeds and seedlings have small root systems that if infected impacts seed germination and seedling emergence (Figure 6).  Later in the season (late May/early June), root rots again become apparent as maturing plants are unable to obtain sufficient moisture to finish grain development especially if drought conditions are present.  In mature plants, white heads often indicates the presence of root rot (Figure 7).

In 2017-2018, the incidence and severity of root rots across Oklahoma dramatically increased compared to the 2016-2017 season.  This increase likely resulted from weather conditions that favored the root rots along with heat and drought in May/June of 2018 that promoted white heads to develop.  Dryland (Fusarium) root rot was the most common root rot observed in 2018, and caused significant damage to wheat in southwestern, western, northwestern OK as well as the panhandle.  In 2018-2019, dryland (Fusarium) root rot again became prevalent across much of Oklahoma, but was not as damaging as the previous year likely because ample moisture and cool temperatures meant that water stress on plants was much less than in 2017-2018.  Root rots were only sparsely observed in 2019-2020 and only at low severity.

Controlling root and foot rots is difficult.  There are no resistant varieties, and fungicide seed treatments with activity toward the root and foot rots are effective in protecting germinating seed and emerging seedlings, their activity usually involves early-season control or suppression rather than control at a consistently high level throughout the season.  Often, there also are different “levels” of activity related to different treatment rates, so again, CAREFULLY read the label of any seed treatment to be sure activity against the diseases and/or insects of concern are indicated, and be certain that the seed treatment(s) is being used at the rate indicated on the label for activity against those diseases and/or insects.  Later planting (after October 1 in northern Oklahoma and after October 15 in southern Oklahoma) also can help reduce the incidence and severity of root rots, but planting later will not entirely eliminate the presence or effects of root rots.  If you have a field with a history of severe root rot, consider planting that field as late as possible or plan to use it in a “graze-out” fashion if that is consistent with your overall plan. 

For some root rots, there are specific factors that contribute to disease incidence and severity.  For example, a high soil pH (>6.5) greatly favors disease development of the root rot called take-all.  OSU soil test recommendations factor in this phenomenon by reducing lime recommendations when continuous wheat is the intended crop. Another practice that can help limit take-all and some of the other root rots is the elimination of residue.  However, elimination of residue by tillage or burning does not seem to affect the incidence or severity of eyespot (strawbreaker).

Figure 6. A healthy plot of wheat in the fall as a result of using a seed treatment (left); a poor stand of wheat in the fall in a non-treated plot; a healthy seedling (left) compared to two seedlings (center and right) showing symptoms of common root rot. Notice the darkened sub-crown internode on the seedlings in the center and on the right as well as the reduced top growth compared to the healthy seedling on the left.
Figure 7. White heads indicative of root rot (left); darkened roots indicative of take all root rot (center); wheat killed by dryland root rot split open to show the pinkish growth of the causal fungus, Fusarium (right).

Seed treatments:  There are several excellent reasons to plant seed wheat treated with an insecticide/fungicide seed treatment. These include:

1.      Control of bunts and smuts, including common bunt (also called stinking smut) and loose smut.  The similarity of these names can be confusing.  All affect the grain of wheat, but whereas common bunt spores carryover on seed or in the soil, loose smut carries over in the seed. Seed treatments labeled to control bunts and smuts are highly effective.  If common bunt (stinking smut) was observed in a field and that field is to be planted again with wheat, then planting certified wheat seed treated with a fungicide effective against common bunt (stinking smut) is strongly recommended.  If either common bunt (stinking smut) or loose smut was observed in a field, grain harvested from that field should not be used as seed the next year.  However, if grain harvested from such a field must be used as seed wheat, treatment of that seed at a high rate of a systemic or a systemic + contact seed treatment effective against common bunt (stinking smut) and loose smut is strongly recommended.  In 2020, loose smut in fields and common bunt in harvested grain was observed at higher incidence and severity than for several years, so I strongly recommend planting certified wheat seed that was been treated with a fungicide labeled for control of bunt and smut.  For more information on common bunt (stinking smut) & loose smut, see: http://www.entoplp.okstate.edu/ddd/hosts/wheat.htm and consult the “2020 OSU Extension Agents’ Handbook of Insect, Plant Disease, and Weed Control (OCES publication E-832),” and/or contact your County Extension Educator.

2.      Enhance seedling emergence, stand establishment, and forage production by suppressing root, crown and foot rots.  This was discussed above under “Root and Foot Rots.”

3.      Early season control of the aphid/BYDV complex.  This can be achieved by using a seed treatment containing an insecticide.  Be sure that the treatment includes an insecticide labeled for control of aphids.

4.      Control fall foliar diseases including leaf rust and powdery mildew.  Seed treatments are effective in controlling foliar diseases (especially leaf rust and powdery mildew) in the fall, which may reduce the inoculum level of these diseases in the spring.  However, this control should be viewed as an added benefit and not necessarily as a sole reason to use a seed treatment.

5.      Suppression of early emerged Hessian fly.  Research suggests that some suppression can be achieved, but an insecticide seed treatment has little residual activity past the seedling stage and Hessian fly often infests wheat after the seedling stage.

Fall Armyworm Potential:  We have seen a severe outbreak of fall armyworms infesting bermudagrass and fescues lawns this past month.  The strain that is infesting these lawns is known as the “rice” strain, and it overwinters in the Florida Gulf Coast and parts of the Caribbean.  We typically see the “corn” strain which typically overwinters in the Texas Gulf Coast and Mexico.  The rice strain prefers rice, and grasses, and the corn strain prefers corn and sorghum and as we have seen in the past, winter wheat.  This year, Oklahoma is experiencing a “double whammy” of both strains, and unfortunately, they both like wheat.   So, our advice is to carefully watch your fields after they emerge and deal with any fall armyworm infestations before they take your stand.

Lanie Hale, from Wheeler Brothers sent a picture of “window paned” wheat from a field that he had scouted in 2017. He counted 3 fall armyworms per row foot from his visual count (which is treatment threshold) but when he looked closely at his photo on his computer, he saw 15 worms in an area the size of his hand (they were very tiny, and probably newly hatched). It is easy to miss some of these little worms in the field because they hide in residue and are very tiny. 

Symptoms like “window pane” in the leaves indicate feeding from fall armyworm.

Look very closely for “window paned” leaves and count all sizes of larvae. Examine plants along the field margin as well as in the interior, because they sometimes move in from road ditches and weedy areas. The suggested treatment threshold is 2-3 larvae per linear foot of row in wheat with active feeding.  Numerous insecticides are registered for control, but they are much more susceptible when caterpillars are small. We won’t get relief from fall armyworms until we get a killing frost, so keep vigilant!

Consult the newly updated OSU Fact Sheets CR-7194 Management of Insect and Mite Pests of Small Grains  for control suggestions.

Aphids: Bird Cherry-Oat Aphids and an Invasion by the “English” (Grain Aphid that is) and Armyworms: Decisions……

This article was written by Dr. Tom A. Royer, Extension Entomologist

The good news is that Oklahoma has a healthy, good-looking wheat crop. Now, it must be protected from any swarming hordes of insect pests that want to eat it!  Dr. Kris Giles has been surveying wheat fields in SW and Central Oklahoma. I have been collecting data from our wheat plots in Chickasha, Stillwater, and Lahoma. Dr. Giles found increasing bird cherry oat aphid (BCOA) numbers, and its main natural enemy (Lysiphlebus testaceipes) may have been set back by the record cold temperatures that we experienced in February. I have seen mixed populations of English grain aphids and bird cherry oat aphis in our wheat plots.

Sometimes, aphid infestations are overlooked. Bird cherry-oat aphid infestations do not produce visible damage until they become very numerous and English grain aphids often bury themselves in between the seeds where they blend in. So check your field for bird cherry oat aphid, English grain aphids. 
Bird cherry oat aphids are olive green to dark green with two rusty patches that surround their “tailpipes” (cornicles).  They feed on plant juices with their piercing sucking mouthparts. They can reproduce rapidly, so fields should be scouted to make a determination as to the need to control them.                                                                                   

Lady beetles and most importantly, the Lysiphlebus wasp that parasitizes them, often control bird cherry oat aphids.  Parasitized aphids swell up and form “mummies” that can easily be seen (below).  If an aphid infestation has 10-15% mummies, the rest are probably also parasitized.     

BCOA and aphid mummy

English grain aphid is larger than either greenbug or bird cherry oat aphid (0.125 inches), green with long black cornicles and legs that have alternate bands of green and black. Their appearance is sometimes characterized as “spidery”. Suggested thresholds are 5 per stem at flag leaf, and 10 per stem at head emergence through milk stage.

English Grain Aphids in a wheat head

My suggestion is to scout the field beforehand to determine if there are GROWING numbers of bird cherry oat aphids that could be or are of concern.  Count bird cherry oat aphids on each of 25 randomly selected tillers across a zigzag transect of the field and note mummy activity. If 10 to 20% of bird-cherry oat aphids are mummies, and there are numerous lady beetle larvae in the wheat, consider control.  If wheat heads have emerged, look for English grain aphids imbedded in the head.

Unpublished research provided by Dr. Kris Giles (OSU) and Dr. Norm Elliott (USDA-ARS) combined with studies on spring wheat from the Dakotas and Minnesota indicate that 20-40 BCOA per tiller causes 5-9% yield loss before wheat reaches the boot stage.  My suggestions: if BCOA numbers average 10-20 per tiller, figure on a 5% loss, if 20-40 per tiller, figure a 7% loss, and if BCOA aphids are more than 40 per tiller, figure a 9% loss.

Estimate APHIDS PER TILLER_______ /tiller =       Total # aphids ______/25 tillers

Estimate CROP VALUE $_______/acre =                 Expected yield ______bushels/acre X $ _____/bushel

Calculate CONTROL COSTS $______/acre =           Insecticide $______/acre + Application $____/Acre 

PREVENTABLE LOSS $_____/acre = Crop value $________ X______loss from aphids/tiller .   

If PREVENTABLE LOSS IS GREATER THAN CONTROL COSTS                             TREAT

IF PREVENTABLE LOSS IS LESS THAN CONTROL COSTS                                      DON’T TREAT

Here is a Table of Preventable Loss estimates for bird cherry-oat aphids for expected yields of 30 to 50 bushels per acre, expected wheat prices of $3.00, $3.50, and $4.00 per bushel, and bird cherry-oat aphid numbers of 10-20, 20 to 40, and over 40 per tiller.

This cool, rainy spring weather, while providing excellent growing conditions for wheat, is also foodstuff for “producing” armyworms. Armyworm infestations typically occur in late April through the first two weeks of May. They feed on leaves and awns, (below left) and occasionally clip the head from developing plants. The head clipping (below right) I have noticed over the years is mostly restricted to secondary tillers with very small, green heads that contribute very little to yield.

Since armyworm infestations tend to occur more frequently around waterways, areas of lush growth, or areas with lodged plants, check them first to determine the size of the infestation. Early signs of an infestation include chewed leaves with ragged margins.  You may find “frass” i.e. the excrement from armyworm caterpillars, around the base of wheat stems and clipped heads.  Also, look for evidence of armyworms parasitized by the wasp Glyptapanteles militaris. This parasitoid attacks armyworms as well as several other caterpillars. When the larva emerges, it produces a cottony cocoon (below right) about the size of a Q-tip. Scout for armyworms at five or more locations looking for “curled up worms” (below left)

Armyworm caterpillars tend to feed at night, so another good strategy is to bring a flashlight, shine it on the emerged wheat heads after dusk and count armyworms that are feeding on the heads and plant stems. 

The suggested treatment threshold for armyworms is 4-5 caterpillars per linear foot of row (bottom left). Generally, no control is needed if wheat is past the soft dough stage unless there is visible head clipping, and caterpillars are present and feeding.

If a producer is considering a fungicide application, this might be an opportune time to evaluate your field for bird cherry oat aphid, English grain aphid and/or armyworms. If NEEDED, combine an insecticide with a needed fungicide application to control multiple pests.  Check CR-7194, “Management of Insect and Mite Pests in Small Grains” for registered insecticides, application rates, and grazing/harvest waiting periods.  It can be obtained from any Oklahoma County Extension Office, or found at the OSU Extra Website at http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-2601/CR-7194web2008.pdf

Bird cherry oat aphids in wheat: showing up in large numbers

By Tom Royer, OSU Extension Entomologist

I have received several reports of (and photos, Figure 1) of bird cherry oat aphid (BCOA) numbers in winter wheat that will require treatment with an insecticide

Bird cherry oat aphid

Bird cherry oat aphid

 

Severe bird cherry oat aphid infestation

Severe bird cherry oat aphid infestation

Bird cherry oat aphids are small (2mm) olive-green aphids with a red-orange patch surrounding the base of each cornicle (Figure 1). Old, wingless, overwintering adult aphids are darker, almost black.  At this time, you may also find winged aphids that have moved in to the field (Figure 2).

Winged bird cherry oat aphid

Winged bird cherry oat aphid

What are my suggestions regarding control of bird cherry oat aphid in winter wheat?

  • Unpublished research provided by Dr. Kris Giles (OSU) and Dr. Norm Elliott (USDA-ARS) along with studies conducted in South Dakota, Minnesota, and North Dakota on spring wheat indicated that BCOA causes yield loss before wheat reaches the boot stage. Approximately 5-9% yield loss occurs when there are 20-40 BCOA per tiller (average 7%).
  • Visible damage from bird cherry-oat aphid is not very noticeable so infestations may go unnoticed. It is very important to check fields for infestations and make treatment decisions only after a field has been checked.

My suggestion for making a treatment decision is as follows:

If greenbugs and bird cherry oat aphids are both present, use Glance n’ Go to scout, which can be accessed at http://entoplp.okstate.edu/gbweb/index3.htm.  Published research from Giles and Elliott showed that Glance n’ Go sampling will work with both aphids if they are both present.

If bird cherry-oat aphid is present alone, count the number of aphids present on each of 25 randomly-selected tillers across a zigzag transect of the field. The reason that you can’t use Glance n’ Go is that the most available research suggests that the threshold is too high to effectively use Glance n’ Go.

Look for evidence of parasite activity in the form of mummies (Figure 3).  A rule of thumb is that if 5-10% of the aphids are mummies, more than 90% are already parasitized.  If mummies are not present, use the guidelines below to make a treatment decision.

Parasitized bird cherry oat aphid

Parasitized bird cherry oat aphid

If, after thoroughly scouting your field, you can identify that infestations are spotty, consider spot spraying with a ground rig.

Use the YIELD LOSS TABLE to determine a potential YIELD LOSS from the aphids.  Then estimate your CROP VALUE and calculate your CONTROL COSTS.  Use those numbers to estimate PREVENTABLE LOSS.    If estimated PREVENTABLE LOSS is greater than CONTROL COSTS, Treat; otherwise, Don’t Treat.

 

Here is an Example:

 

Step 1:  Estimate YIELD LOSS:

 

  • Total # aphids_______525___________/25 tillers = average # aphids/tiller_____21_____

 

Step 2:  Estimate CROP VALUE:  (Crop Value = Yield potential X Price per bushel)

  • Yield potential__40____ bushels/acre X price per bushel $____4.50____ per bushel

 

CROP VALUE = $___180____

 

Step 3:  Estimate CONTROL COSTS: (Control Cost = Insecticide Cost + Application Cost)

 

  • Insecticide cost $___6_____ /acre  +  Application Cost       $ ____3_____/acre

 

CONTROL COSTS $_____9_____/acre

 

Step 4:  Estimate PREVENTABLE LOSS (Crop Value X Yield Loss from Aphid)

 

  • Crop value/acre $___180_____  x Yield Loss from aphid ___0.07_____

 

PREVENTABLE LOSS $____12.60______/acre

 

IF PREVENTABLE LOSS $___12.60_____ is greater than CONTROL COSTS $___9.00_____ TREAT

 

IF PREVENTABLE LOSS $________ is less than CONTROL COSTS $__________                                   DON’T TREAT

 

Check CR-7194, “Management of Insect and Mite Pests in Small Grains” for registered insecticides, application rates, and grazing/harvest waiting periods.

It can be obtained from any County Extension Office, or found at the OSU Extra Website at http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-2601/CR-7194web2008.pdf

Wheat head armyworms in Oklahoma wheat

Heath Sanders, Canola Field Specialist with Great Plains Canola, was scouting some wheat fields for armyworms in southern Oklahoma this past week and sent us some photos of damaged wheat heads that were being fed upon by wheat head armyworm. He stated that he had a hard time finding the worms because they blended in so well with the color of the wheat.

The insect causing the damage was Faronta diffusa, known as the wheat head armyworm. Unlike the armyworm, which was discussed last week, the wheat head armyworm is very capable of damaging wheat kernels. Adult moths lay eggs on plants in the spring, and the larva feed directly on the grain heads, mostly at night. The caterpillars range in color from gray to greenish with distinct yellow, white and brown stripes going lengthwise across the body. They typically have a larger head relative to their body. Because the larvae are so variable in color, the best way to identify them is to send in a sample to the Plant Disease and Insect Diagnostic Lab.

Wheat head armyworm

Wheat head armyworm

Wheat head army worm

Wheat head armyworm

Fields can be scouted with a sweep net to determine numbers of caterpillars. There is no established treatment threshold because it rarely causes economic damage and more often than not the damage is not noticed until the grain is harvested. If wheat is at soft dough, consider treating the field to reduce damage. This insect is often found along the margins of fields so if scouting shows that they are restricted to the field edges, consider spraying the field margins with a border spray. Pay careful attention to pre-harvest intervals when selecting an insecticide.

This insect rarely causes significant damage. The major issue with wheat head armyworm damage has to do with the grain grading which is classified as IDK (Insect Damaged Kernels). Grain elevators will dock wheat when samples contain 6-31 damaged kernels per 100 grams of seed. To coincide with the Food and Drug Administration’s defect action levels, the U.S. Standards for Wheat consider wheat containing 32 or more insect-damaged kernels per 100 grams as U.S. Sample Grade. This grain is unfit for human consumption and can only be sold as animal feed. It is important to note that although the wheat is damaged, it is not an indication of an on-going infestation of grain weevil or some other stored grain insect pest.

Wheat head army worm damage and a Suzuki 4-wheeler

Wheat head army worm damage

Kernel damage associated with wheat head armyworm

Kernel damage associated with wheat head armyworm

The best strategy to manage the problem at harvest is to combine wheat harvested from head rows with wheat harvested from the rest of the field to dilute IDK percentages. Treating a field with insecticide at harvest will be of little help because the damage is already done, most of the caterpillars have already pupated and remaining larvae can’t feed on the mature wheat grain.

If a load is docked or rejected, check on insurance options. Most crop insurance policies have a Quality Loss Adjustment clause that covers the damage up to 25% of the crop’s value, regardless of the yield. Work with your elevator to collect and store samples of the wheat that can be used as evidence of the in-field damage.

This link will access Subpart M for US Standards for Wheat which discusses grades and grade requirements for wheat: http://www.gipsa.usda.gov/fgis/standards/810wheat.pdf

For more information on this topic, contact Tom A. Royer, Extension Entomologist at tom.royer@okstate.edu or Edmond Bonjour, Extension Stored Grain Entomologist

Watch for armyworms in wheat

We have a late-maturing wheat crop that finally received some needed rain.   I received a report of armyworms infesting wheat in the Vernon, Texas area. Armyworm infestations typically occur in late April through the first two weeks of May, but the cooler spring we are experiencing this year may have delayed their development.

Armyworm infestations occur more frequently around waterways, areas of lush growth, or areas with lodged plants. These areas should be checked first to determine the size of the infestation. Armyworm 2 Royer 2007

Early signs of an infestation include leaves with ragged margins that have been chewed.  You may find “frass” i.e. the excrement from armyworm caterpillars, around the base of wheat stems.  They also tend to clip heads from developing wheat plants. The head clipping I have noticed over the years us usually restricted to secondary tillers with very small, green heads that would not likely contribute much to yield.

Armyworm damaged wheat heads

Armyworm damaged wheat heads

Scout for armyworms, at 5 or more locations looking for “curled up worms”.  Armyworm caterpillars tend to feed at night, so a good strategy is to bring a flashlight and look at fields after dusk when they are feeding up on the plant stems.  The suggested treatment threshold for armyworms is 4-5 unparasitized caterpillars per linear foot of row.

Clipped heads from armyworm feeding

Clipped heads from armyworm feeding

Armyworms have a number of natural enemies that help keep populations in check, if given a chance.  In particular, parasitic wasps and flies attack them.  If you find small white cocoons littered on the ground that are about ¾ the size of a cue tip, the natural enemies have already taken care of the problem.

 

 

Parasitized armyworms

Parasitized armyworms

If wheat is past the soft dough stage, control is not warranted unless obvious head clipping can be seen and caterpillars are still present and feeding. Worms feeding on the awns when plants are past soft dough will not cause enough yield loss to justify the expense of an insecticide application that is solely intended for armyworm control. When choosing to spray, keep in mind that some insecticides require a 30 day waiting period for harvest.

Consult CR-7194 Management of Insect and Mite Pests of Small Grains for information on insecticides registered for control of armyworms.

For more information on this topic, contact Tom A. Royer, Extension Entomologist at tom.royer@okstate.edu

Greenbug infestations reported

By Tom Royer, OSU Extension Entomologist

I received several reports of treatable greenbug infestations in winter wheat in Major County. This means it is important to scout your fields for greenbugs. I encourage you to use the “Glance n’ Go system, as it is easy to use.

Greenbugs on wheat

Greenbugs on wheat

There are several things that make Glance ‘n Go sampling a desirable way to make such a decision. You only have to “Glance” at a tiller to see if it has greenbugs (no counting greenbug numbers). You can make a decision to treat “on the Go” because you stop sampling once a decision is reached (no set number of samples). Finally, you can account for the activity of the greenbug’s most important natural enemy, Lysiphlebus testaceipes. Aphid Mummies

The Glance ‘n Go system be accessed in two ways. One is to set up an account with the myFields platform: http://myFields.info and sign up for a personal account. This system will allow you to sample a field with a smart phone in the field. To use it, you must have cell phone connectivity. You can then select the Glance n’ Go tool, plug in your cost inputs, and start sampling. Once you sign up, you can scout multiple fields and myFields will keep track of all your sampling information.

Glance-N-Go using the myFields platform

The second way is to access the Cereal Aphids Decision Support Tool on your computer http://entoplp.okstate.edu/gbweb/index3.htm . You can customize the threshold and selecting the Greenbug Calculator. Put your inputs in and it will select a threshold for your field. You can then download a paper Glance n’ Go form; take it to the field and start scouting.

Cereal Aphids Decision Support Tool

Cereal Aphids Decision Support Tool

By answering a few simple questions, you can determine an economic threshold for controlling greenbugs. This threshold is based on the estimated cost of treating the field and the estimated price of wheat. Once a threshold is calculated, you can print a Glance ‘n Go scouting form, take it to a field and record your sampling results. The form will help you to decide if the field needs to be treatment for greenbugs.

When scouting with the Glance ‘n Go system, keep a running count of tillers that have one or more aphid mummies and a running count of tillers that are infested with one or more greenbugs. The Glance ‘n Go form directs you to look at your total number of infested tillers and tillers with mummies after 5 stops. You will be directed to treat, not treat, or continue sampling. If there is enough parasitoid (mummy) activity, you will be directed to stop sampling and DON’T TREAT, even if you have exceeded the treatment threshold for greenbugs! Why? Because research showed that at that level of parasitism, almost all of the healthy-looking greenbugs have been “sentenced to death” and will be ghosts within 3-5 days. If they have received their “sentence” you can save the cost of an unnecessary insecticide application.

aphid mummies

aphid mummies

I accessed the Glance n’ Go tool to determine a “general” threshold that you can use for a Spring infestation, based on a wheat price of $5.50 per bushel and an application cost of either $4, $6, and $8 per acre. You can go directly to the website and download a paper form (Greenbug Spring Infestation) directly. The threshold is 3 greenbugs per tiller if your application costs are $4 per acre or 2 greenbugs per tiller for application costs of $6 or $8 per acre.

Contact your local County Extension Agricultural Educator for more information. If a field needs to be treated, check with Current Report CR-7194, “Management of Insect and Mite Pests in Small Grains”.

Army cutworms reported in some Oklahoma wheat fields

This article is provided by Dr. Tom A. Royer, OSU Extension Entomologist

Sug Farrington, Extension Educator in Cimarron County received a sample of “worms” that were collected by a producer in his wheat field. They turned out to be army cutworms.

Unlike the fall armyworm, this caterpillar overwinters in Oklahoma, tolerates cold and feeds throughout the winter months. Adult army cutworm moths migrate to Oklahoma each fall from their summer residence in the Rocky Mountains. They seek bare or sparsely vegetated fields (like a newly prepared field ready for wheat planting, or a field that was “dusted in” and had not yet emerged) and lay eggs from August through October. The eggs hatch soon after being deposited, which explains why a producer might see different sizes of larvae in a field. Army cutworms feed throughout the winter and molt seven times before they turn into pupae in the soil. Most larvae will be gone by late March and adult moths begin emerging in April and fly back to the Rocky Mountains to spend the summer.

Army cutworms. Photo courtesy Sug Farrington, Cimarron County Extension Educator.

Army cutworms can cause severe stand loss of wheat if not controlled. Cutworm damage often goes unnoticed through the winter because the caterpillars grow slowly and don’t get big enough to cause noticeable damage until temperatures warm in the spring. Unfortunately, that is also an indication of poor growing conditions due to drought (which cutworms also like), so it becomes important to check the fields for cutworms. If you notice a field at this time of year with a numbers of starlings or black birds feeding in a concentrated area of your wheat field, they are likely feasting on army cutworms!

Army cutworm injury in wheat. Photo courtesy Sug Farrington, Cimarron County Extension Educator.

Army cutworm injury in wheat. Photo courtesy Sug Farrington, Cimarron County Extension Educator.

Sample a field by stirring or digging the soil to a depth of two inches at 5 or more locations. Also, turn over those dried up cow patties, as they are a favorite hiding place for army cutworms. The cutworms will be “greenish grey”, and will probably curl up into a tight “C” when disturbed. A suggested treatment threshold is 2-3 caterpillars per foot of row when conditions are dry (like we are experiencing this winter) or 4-5 caterpillars per row-foot in fields with adequate moisture. Control suggestions are listed in Current Report-7194 Management of Insect and Mite Pests in Small Grains.

Army cutworms are also a potential pest of canola. Scout fields just as you would in wheat. The suggested treatment threshold for cutworms in canola is 1-2 per row-foot. Current recommendations for control of army cutworms in canola are listed in CR-7667, Management of Insect and Mite Pests in Canola.

Greenbugs reported in northwestern Oklahoma

By Tom Royer, OSU Extension Entomologist

Crop consultants have reported greenbugs in a few northwestern Oklahoma wheat fields. The hit or miss nature of greenbugs and other aphid pests in wheat fields can make scouting challenging. Fortunately, there is an online tool called the Cereal Aphid Decision Support Tool that simplifies scouting for greenbugs and also considers the effects of natural predators.

Greenbugs on wheat

Greenbugs on wheat

Start by going to the Cereal Aphids Decision Support Tool on your computer http://entoplp.okstate.edu/gbweb/index3.htm and selecting the Greenbug Calculator.

By answering a few simple questions, you can determine an economic threshold for controlling greenbugs.  This threshold is based on the estimated cost of treating the field and the estimated price of wheat.  Once a threshold is calculated, you can print a Glance ‘n Go scouting form, take it to a field and record your sampling results.  The form will help you to decide if the field needs to be treatment for greenbugs.  There are several things that make Glance ‘n Go a good way to make such a decision. You only have to “Glance” at a tiller to see if it has greenbugs (no counting greenbug numbers).  You can make a decision to treat “on the Go” because you stop sampling once a decision is reached (no set number of samples).  Finally, you can account for the activity of the greenbug’s most important natural enemy, Lysiphlebus testaceipes.

When scouting with the Glance ‘n Go system, keep a running count of tillers that have aphid mummies and a running count of tillers that are infested with one or more greenbugs.  After each set of 5 stops, the Glance ‘n Go form directs you to look at your total number of infested tillers and tillers with mummies.  If there is enough parasitoid (mummy) activity, you will be directed to stop sampling and DON’T TREAT, even if you have exceeded the treatment threshold for greenbugs!  Why? Because research showed that at that level of parasitism, almost all of the healthy-looking greenbugs have been “sentenced to death” and will be ghosts within 3-5 days.  If they have received their “sentence” you can save the cost of an unnecessary insecticide application.

Natural predators can keep greenbug infestations below economic thresholds

Natural predators can keep greenbug infestations below economic thresholds

Treatment thresholds will probably fall around 2-4 greenbugs per tiller, but make sure you are using the Fall (Sept.-December) form, not the spring form.  If a field needs to be treated, check with Current Report CR-7194, “Management of Insect and Mite Pests in Small Grains”.  If you treat for greenbugs and have a failure, please contact our Department and we will investigate further to determine if insecticide resistance might be an issue. Dr. Ed Bynum, Extension Entomologist from Amarillo, reported finding some greenbug populations in 2013 that were shown to be resistant to chlorpyrifos, the active ingredient in Lorsban 4E, and other generic products (Govern 4E, Hatchet, Nufos, Vulcan, Warhawk, Whirlwind).   The bottom line:  he tested some suspect greenbug populations using a diagnostic test that he developed for testing greenbugs in sorghum in the 1990’s, and found that they were resistant to chlorpyrifos at labeled rates.

Fall armyworm on the march!

by: Tom Royer, OSU Extension Entomologist

Fall armyworms are active this fall. I checked a field of wheat this past weekend with significant damage from fall armyworms that averaged 6-7 fall armyworms per square foot. Scout for fall armyworms by examining plants in several (5 or more) locations in the field. Fall armyworms are most active in the morning or late afternoon. Look for “window paned” leaves and count all sizes of larvae.

Fall armyworm damage is characterized by window panning on wheat leaves. Injury can sometimes be greater in field margins as armyworms sometimes move in from adjacent road ditches or weedy areas.

Fall armyworm damage is characterized by window panning on wheat leaves. Injury can sometimes be greater in field margins as armyworms sometimes move in from adjacent road ditches or weedy areas.

Fall armyworms are generally most active early in the morning or late in the evening. Spray when 2-3 armyworms per linear foot of row are present.

Fall armyworms are generally most active early in the morning or late in the evening. Spray when 2-3 armyworms per linear foot of row are present.

Examine plants along the field margin as well as in the interior, because they sometimes move in from road ditches and weedy areas. The caterpillars were widely distributed in the field that I checked, suggesting that they were the result of a large egg lay from a recent adult moth flight. The suggested treatment threshold is 2-3 larvae per linear foot of row in wheat with active feeding. We won’t get relief from fall armyworms until we get a killing frost, since they do not overwinter in Oklahoma.

Consult the newly updated OSU Fact Sheet CR-7194 Management of Insect and Mite Pests of Small Grains for control suggestions.

Brown wheat mite showing up in winter wheat

by: Tom Royer, OSU Extension Entomologist

Our winter wheat has taken a beating this winter, with cold weather hanging on and some areas not getting that thirst quenching precipitation to help it get a great jump start this spring.  In addition, I have received scattered reports of brown wheat mites showing up and causing problems.  Producers need to remain alert so that their wheat is not suffering dual problems of dry growing conditions PLUS brown wheat mite.

Brown what mite can severely damage wheat that is already stressed due to drought or other adverse environmental conditions.

Brown what mite can severely damage wheat that is already stressed due to drought or other adverse environmental conditions.

Brown wheat mite is small (about the size of this period.) with a metallic brown to black body and 4 pair of yellowish legs.  The forelegs are distinctly longer that the other three pair. Brown wheat mites can complete a cycle in as little as 10-14 days.  They will undergo up to 3 generations each year, but have probably already completed at least one or two by now. Numbers will likely decline if a hard, driving rain occurs.  Spring populations begin to decline in mid-late April when females begin to lay “diapause” eggs.

Brown wheat mite causes problems in wheat that is stressed from lack of moisture.  They feed by piercing plant cells in the leaf, which results in “stippling”.  As injury continues the plants become yellow, then dry out and die.  These mites feed during the day, and the best time to scout for them is in mid-afternoon.  They do not produce webbing and will quickly drop to the soil when disturbed. They are very susceptible to hard, driving rains, but until then they can cause yield loss when present in large numbers

A closeup of a brown wheat mite. Photo courtesy Franklin Peairs, CSU.

A closeup of a brown wheat mite. Photo courtesy Franklin Peairs, CSU.

Brown wheat mites are about the size of a period at the end of a sentence and can be difficult to see with the naked eye.

Brown wheat mites are about the size of a period at the end of a sentence and can be difficult to see with the naked eye.

Research suggests that a treatment threshold of 25-50 brown wheat mites per leaf in wheat that is 6-9 inches tall is economically warranted.  An alternative estimation is “several hundred” per foot of row.

Check CR-7194, Management of Insect and Mite Pests in Small Grains for registered insecticides, application rates, and grazing/harvest waiting periods. It can be obtained from any County Extension Office, at www.wheat.okstate.edu, or by clicking here.

Brown wheat mite eggs in soil.

Brown wheat mite eggs in soil.