By Dennis Minich
With all of the rain this summer, most folks were likely expecting lush green lawns. But in many areas those dark green hues are being replaced by browning fields. According to local lawn care professionals the problem is not water, but more likely army worms.
Patricia Miller is an agronomy specialist with the University of Missouri Extension Office in Nevada. Her service area comprises six counties, including Bates and Cass. She said this year’s infestation is the worst she has seen in her 32 years with the university.
“There are fall army worms and they are coming in from the south. The moths have been working their way up from Louisiana and Arkansas. Arkansas has been hit very hard, a lot of damage in the rice fields,” Miller said.
Army worms are actually caterpillars that grow to about 1.5 inches before morphing into moths. They feed on grassy areas making not only yards a target, but crops like hay and alfalfa.
“I just looked at an alfalfa field near Archie and the damage was extensive,” Miller said.
There have been reports in the southern part of the state and areas in Kansas where hundreds of acres have been destroyed. Crops such as corn are not at risk, but even smaller soybean plants could be in peril.
“One of the problems is the main insecticide we would normally recommend doesn’t seem to be working,” Miller said. “There are some other insecticides, but the problem is they could develop a resistance to them as well.”
Miller said this year’s combination of hot and wet weather created a perfect storm to develop the army worm problem.
“We don’t really know enough to know what those conditions are, but we have them this year. What we are dealing with is fall army worms. We normally have some spring army worms, but nothing like this,” she said.
Since the cycle of the caterpillars is about nine to 12 days, their ability to reproduce and spread is quick. For homes with the brown lawns, there are some commercial insecticides which should be effective. Miller said to make sure the label says the product is effective on caterpillars.
Miller said she is unsure if this year’s infestation will affect next year.