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Winter grain mites in northcentral OK

Jeff Bedwell forwarded reports of winter grain mites in Major and Alfalfa counties over the past week. This does not appear to be a widespread problem, but growers should check wheat fields to see if winter grain mites are present. We had a lot of issues with winter grain mites and brown wheat mites in Oklahoma last year. Unfortunately, many of these fields were not diagnosed until the damage was severe and visible from a distance. In this case, a rescue treatment was still effective at controlling the pest, but some yield loss had already occurred thus reducing the return on pesticide investment.

Winter grain mites are small (about 1 mm long) with black bodies and orange-red legs. Winter grain mites complete two generations per year and the adults can live for up to 40 days. The generation we are dealing with now resulted from oversummering eggs laid last spring. The second generation peaks in March/April and results from eggs laid in January/February.

Image

Winter grain mites on wheat near Blair, Oklahoma.

 

Scouting
Winter grain mites are not a problem you will notice in a timely fashion while standing up. You will need to get close to the soil surface and move residue to find these pests. Winter grain mites are light sensitive and prefer calm air to windy conditions; therefore, scouting early in the morning, late in the evening, or on cloudy days generally works best. Be sure to look under residue in no-till fields and under clumps of soil in conventional-till fields.

Scouting for winter grain mites requires getting close to the soil surface and moving residue to disturb mites.

Scouting for winter grain mites requires getting close to the soil surface and moving residue to disturb mites.

Injury

Winter grain mites feed by piercing plant cells in the leaf, which results in “stippling”.  As injury continues, the leaves take on a characteristic grayish or silverish cast.  Winter grain mites are more likely to cause injury in wheat if it is already stressed due to lack of moisture or nutrients. Also be advised that freeze injury can easily be confused for winter grain mite injury.

Wheat damaged by winter grain mite often has a silver or grayish appearance from a distance

Wheat damaged by winter grain mite often has a silver or bronzed appearance from a distance

When to spray
There are no established thresholds for winter grain mite. Healthy, well-fertilized wheat plants can generally outgrow injury, so it takes large numbers to justify control. If there is injury present AND large numbers of mites (~10 per plant) present in grain only wheat this time of year, you might consider control. If the wheat is to be grazed, I would simply monitor the situation in most cases and only spray if injury became severe.

What to spray
Malathion is the only product labeled for wheat in Oklahoma that has winter grain mite on the label. There are many additional products, such as some of the pyrethroids and chlorpyrifos, that are effective at controlling winter grain mite, but they don’t have a specific label for them. These products can be applied under 2ee regulations; however since this pest is not specifically labeled, the user assumes all responsibility for the application of the product.  It is also important to read and follow label directions regarding grazing restrictions for these and all pesticides.  Consult OSU Current Report 7194 Management of insect and mite pests in small grains for a more complete listing of available pesticides.

2014 Wheat Crop Overview

This blog post is an excerpt from the 2014 OSU Small Grains Variety Performance Tests report, which is available at http://www.wheat.okstate.edu or by clicking here.

At the time of writing this post, 2014 Oklahoma wheat production is estimated to be approximately 51 million bushels, which is roughly half of 2013 production (Table 1). Oklahoma has not seen wheat production this low since the 43 million bushel crop of 1957, and with any luck, production will not be this low again for at least another 60 years.

 

Table 1. Oklahoma wheat production for 2013 and 2014 as estimated by OK NASS, July 2014
2013 2014
Harvested Acres 3.4 million 3.0 million
Yield (bu/ac) 31 17
Total bushels 105 million 51 million

 

The 2013-2014 wheat production season had a good start in central Oklahoma. Topsoil moisture was short in September, but October rains resulted in favorable conditions for wheat emergence and establishment. In addition, many areas had a fair amount of stored soil moisture from the summer of 2013. This stored soil moisture allowed sites such as Chickasha and Lahoma to produce 43 and 47 bu/ac average wheat yield on less than eight inches of rainfall during the growing season. Stored soil moisture also contributed to adequate forage production at grazed sites such as Marshall Dual-Purpose, but production of a forage crop did not leave behind enough moisture to fuel much of a grain crop.

 

The multi-year drought never released its stranglehold on western Oklahoma during the 2013-2014 wheat production season. Small rains here or there allowed most producers to obtain an acceptable stand of wheat, but moisture was never sufficient to spur tillering or leaf area development. Early winter snowfall made for a few bright spots for forage production in southwestern Oklahoma, but this moisture was quickly utilized by growing wheat plants and dry conditions soon returned. As a result, many fields in southwestern and western Oklahoma were abandoned and not taken to harvest.

This photo of a wheat field near Altus, Oklahoma in April 2014 shows the level of devastation from the extreme, multi-year drought. Most wheat fields in this region were abandoned due to drought.

This photo of a wheat field near Altus, Oklahoma in April 2014 shows the level of devastation from the extreme, multi-year drought. Most wheat fields in this region were abandoned due to drought.

 

Thin wheat stands left some fields vulnerable to blowing sand and wind erosion

Thin wheat stands left some fields vulnerable to blowing sand and wind erosion

The winter of 2013-2014 wasn’t just dry; it was cold too. Young, drought-stressed wheat plants had difficulty dealing with the cold, windy conditions, and winterkill was common in late-sown wheat. Winterkill was also common in grazed wheat that was stressed by heavy grazing pressure and inadequate soil moisture. Considerable winterkill was also present in no-till wheat without adequate seed to soil contact in northwestern Oklahoma. The inadequate seed to soil contact was generally the result of heavy residue from the previous year’s wheat crop.

Winterkill was common in northwestern Oklahoma, with the greatest injury occurring in no-till and/or grazed wheat fields.

Winterkill was common in northwestern Oklahoma, with the greatest injury occurring in no-till and/or grazed wheat fields.

Closer inspection of some no-till fields with winterkill revealed shallow seed placement due to heavy and/or unevenly spread residue from the 2103 wheat crop.

Closer inspection of some no-till fields with winterkill revealed shallow seed placement due to heavy and/or unevenly spread residue from the 2103 wheat crop.

 

While the wheat crop did not appear to be on its way to bumper production, most producers hoped for a turnaround similar to 2013 and topdressed in late winter. Unlike the spring of 2013, however, the rains never came and much of this topdress N applied did not make it into the soil until the crop was at boot stage or later.

 

The cold winter delayed the onset of first hollow stem by about five days as compared to 2013 and 25 days as compared to 2012. Despite a slow start to the spring, wheat in southern Oklahoma was near heading when a hard freeze occurred the morning of April 15, 2014. As expected, drought stressed wheat in advanced stages in southwestern Oklahoma suffered severe freeze damage; however, injury from the 2014 spring freeze did not always follow the “rule of thumb” guidelines used by agronomists. Many areas that received small amounts of rain just prior to the freeze seemed to escape widespread injury, regardless of growth stage. In southcentral Oklahoma, injury seemed to be most severe on later maturing varieties that were approximately Feekes GS 7 to booting, while earlier-maturing varieties that were just starting to head escaped freeze injury. Wheat that was barely past two nodes in northern Oklahoma suffered severe injury, while more advanced wheat in central Oklahoma endured similar temperatures with minimal injury.

 

There were relatively few insect or disease issues to deal with during the 2013-2014 wheat production season. Winter grain mite and/or brown wheat mite infestations proved to be too much for some drought stressed wheat fields in northcentral and northwestern Oklahoma. Some fields already devastated by the drought were left unsprayed, while others still showing some sign of yield potential were treated.

 

Injury, such as the bronzed areas in the picture above, was the result of brown wheat mite and/or winter grain mite infestations in late winter.

Injury, such as the bronzed areas in the picture above, was the result of brown wheat mite and/or winter grain mite infestations in late winter.

 

Other than a rare siting of a single leaf rust pustule, there was no foliar disease in Oklahoma in 2014. The lack of foliar disease is evidenced by the lack of response to foliar fungicides at either Chickasha or Lahoma. These two sites provided a rare opportunity in 2014 to observe yield impacts of foliar fungicides in the absence of disease, as most years we report at least light or negligible foliar disease at these sites. While foliar disease was not an issue in 2014, wheat streak mosaic virus was an issue for many producers. This disease has historically been most prevalent in northwestern Oklahoma and the Panhandle. Wheat streak mosaic virus was confirmed in several fields downstate this year, however, and it is likely that some fields affected by wheat streak mosaic virus were not identified as such because it is sometimes difficult to distinguish wheat streak mosaic virus symptoms from those of severe drought stress. The wheat variety testing program was not immune from this disease, and we lost our Kildare location to wheat streak mosaic virus.

 

Warmer temperatures in May hastened crop maturity and the Oklahoma wheat harvest began near Frederick on May 22, 2014. By the first week of June, harvest was in full swing, only to be delayed by rain shortly thereafter. Harvest resumed across most of the state by June 13 and was mostly completed by June 30. The exceptions being some waterlogged areas in northern Oklahoma. The Cherokee Mesonet site, for example, reported 5.1 inches of rainfall from October 1, 2013 to May 31, 2014, but the same site received 10 inches of rain from June 1 to June 30, 2014.

Oklahoma wheat update 03/28/2014

On Friday, March 28th I made a tour through northwestern Oklahoma to diagnose a few problem fields and get a better feel for the wheat crop condition. I have provided a brief description of what I saw below. I did not make it to southwestern Oklahoma this trip, but by all accounts the wheat is dry, brown, and barely hanging on. A best case scenario in areas southwest of Apache this year is a poor wheat crop. It will have to rain a lot between now and harvest for this to happen.

Reports from Apache eastward are somewhat better. The wheat crop in this area still has potential, but the potential is declining. A farmer from the Hinton area called yesterday and indicated that moisture could still be found about 1 inch below the soil surface, but the top is still very dry. We need a soaking rain to move nitrogen into the rooting zone and to perk the crop up post dormancy.

My first stop this morning was at Lamont. Wheat in this area is smaller than normal and is at approximately Feekes GS5. There were several yellow areas in fields and uneven wheat. Much of this yellowing appeared to be nitrogen deficiency, but not all of it was due to insufficient top dress nitrogen. We simply have not had enough moisture to get good movement of top dress N into the rooting profile and for the wheat crop to take up applied N. Some of the yellowing was also due to drought stress. Some of the yellowing could have been due to brown wheat mite and/or winter grain mite activity (described more below).

My second stop was at our Cherokee variety plots. Wheat in this area was uneven, similar to Lamont. As shown in the picture below, part of our plot area was showing significant yellowing. Initially, I thought this was due to changes in soil type/nutrient variability. Upon closer inspection, this area was infested with brown wheat mite. These symptoms have only started to show in the last week or so. Thanks to variety trial cooperator Kenneth Failes, this situation will be remedied as soon as the wind settles.

The yellow, stunted areas in our Cherokee variety trial were caused by brown wheat mite

The yellow, stunted areas in our Cherokee variety trial were caused by brown wheat mite

 

Next stop was Alva, where the trend of uneven and yellow wheat continued. As shown in the picture below, there were several fields in the area with spots of dead or nearly dead wheat. Brown wheat mites were found in most of these fields and probably weakened plants which increased the amount of winterkill. In some fields seed had been placed at the proper depth, but the seed trenches were partially filled with residue rather than soil. Residue provides less insulation than soil and likely made heavy residue areas more prone to winterkill. I also noticed in these fields that the crown of the plant had developed in residue rather than soil, which likely increased winterkill. I looked at additional no-till fields in the area with severe winter injury, but plants that were still viable. Grazed fields seemed to have greater injury than non-grazed.

Areas of winterkill in no-till wheat near Alva

Areas of winterkill in no-till wheat near Alva

 

Although seeded at the proper depth, some wheat plants in heavy residue areas had crown placement at the soil surface. This increased the severity of winterkill.

Although seeded at the proper depth, some wheat plants in heavy residue areas had crown placement at the soil surface. This increased the severity of winterkill.

I looked at a few fields south of Enid. Unlike the fields in Grant, Alfalfa, and Woods Counties, this primary issue in these fields was winter grain mite instead of brown wheat mite. The symptoms were areas of the field having a silver tint. Some areas had died or lost several tillers and these areas got bigger as the season progressed and dry conditions worsened.

Field affected by winter grain mite south of Enid. Note the silver tint of the wheat on the left side of the terrace.

Field affected by winter grain mite south of Enid. Note the silver tint of the wheat on the left side of the terrace.

 

I ended my tour at Marshall, Oklahoma where I did not find any insects, but did find some thirsty wheat. All of the insect issues I encountered today can be corrected with scouting and insecticides. Wheat winterkill was present, but rarely affected entire fields and was not that widespread. The primary concern for all of Oklahoma remains lack of moisture. There are some fields in north central and northwestern Oklahoma with good yield potential; however, the best areas are starting to turn blue due to lack of moisture. Another couple of weeks of warm temperatures and wind without rain will turn blue wheat to brown. We need moisture.

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.

 

 

Winter grain mites in SW OK

Over the past week, I have received a few reports of winter grain mite activity in southwest Oklahoma. Winter grain mites are small (about 1 mm long) with black bodies and orange-red legs. Winter grain mites complete two generations per year and the adults can live for up to 40 days. The generation we are dealing with now resulted from oversummering eggs laid last spring. The second generation peaks in March/April and results from eggs laid in January/February.

Scouting
Winter grain mites are light sensitive and prefer calm air to windy conditions; therefore, scouting early in the morning, late in the evening, or on cloudy days generally works best. Be sure to look under residue in no-till fields and under clumps of soil in conventional-till fields.

Image

Winter grain mites on wheat near Blair, Oklahoma.

Injury
Winter grain mites feed by piercing plant cells in the leaf, which results in “stippling”.  As injury continues, the leaves take on a characteristic grayish or silverish cast.  Winter grain mites are more likely to cause injury in wheat if it is already stressed due to lack of moisture or nutrients. Also be advised that freeze injury can easily be confused for winter grain mite injury.

When to spray
There are no established thresholds for winter grain mite. Healthy, well-fertilized wheat plants can generally outgrow injury, so it takes large numbers to justify control. If there is injury present AND large numbers of mites (~10 per plant) present in grain only wheat this time of year, you might consider control. If the wheat is to be grazed, I would simply monitor the situation in most cases and only spray if injury became severe.

What to spray
There are not a lot of pesticides with winter grain mite listed on the label, and most products have grazing restrictions. Malathion and methyl parathion have been shown to provide effective control in the past. Consult OSU Current Report 7194 Management of insect and mite pests in small grains for a more complete listing of available pesticides.