Armyworms March On; Farmers May Apply for assistance
Armyworms continue to march and destroy Indiana cropland and pastures. Hoosier farmers with damaged acres may be eligible for disaster assistance through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency (FSA), but they must apply soon.
The 2001 Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program may cover armyworm damage, said Doug Hovermale, FSA program specialist. Details are still being worked out, he said.
"Producers who have possible damage to non-insured crops are encouraged to file a notice of loss -- form CCC-576 -- to protect any possible future benefits," Hovermale said. "This must be done within 15 days of the disaster event or the date loss becomes apparent."
Farmers may obtain the form at their county FSA office.
Coverage takes effect 30 days after the application is submitted. Benefits are based on 50 percent of a county's established yield or the producer's actual production history -- if established with the county FSA office -- and 55 percent of the county's established price for the affected crop.
Armyworm larvae are feeding in southwest and west-central Indiana counties. The pests also have been spotted in portions of northern and northeast Indiana, said John Obermeyer, a Purdue University entomologist.
The worms, which range from a quarter-inch to 1.25 inches long, consume emerging corn, wheat, rye and other tall growing grasses. Obermeyer said he's seen fields and pastures "denuded" by the hungry pests.
"This is definitely a serious infestation," Obermeyer said. "Some farmers are comparing it with an infestation going back to the early 1970s. I've heard others say they haven't seen it like this since the 1950s."
Keith Johnson, Purdue Cooperative Extension Service forage specialist, said he was amazed at armyworm damage he'd encountered in southern Indiana in the past few days.
"I was actually able to hear the larvae chew their supper," Johnson said. "I hope that I never see or hear such a sight again."
Farmers should inspect their fields for armyworm activity and take decisive action, Obermeyer said. Before applying pesticides, check product labels for harvest and livestock grazing restrictions, Obermeyer said.
Fescue and orchardgrass fields will recover from armyworm feeding, Johnson said. Under normal growing conditions, grasses should be ready for livestock grazing or hay mowing within six weeks, he said.
Sowing sorgham-sudangrass into damaged fields should not be done, Johnson said.
"I am not in favor of no-tilling any annual crops into pasture or hay fields that were good stands before the armyworm invasion," Johnson said. "Grass regrowth will be competitive with the young seedlings. I doubt that the farmer recoups the cost of seed and time in no-tilling annuals into the perennial grass pasture or hay fields."
Clipping stems can provide even and vigorous grass regrowth and reduce eye irritation to livestock, Johnson said.
For more information on armyworms and control options, read Purdue Extension publication E-57, "Armyworm and Fall Armyworm," by Obermeyer and Purdue entomologists Rich Edwards and Larry Bledsoe. The publication is available through county Extension offices or may be downloaded online at http://www.agcom.purdue.edu/AgCom/Pubs/pdflinks/E-57.html.