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  • Crops ahead of schedule
    Army worm pockets
    By Lois Ann Baker & Nelson Zandbergen - AgriNews Staff Writers

    EASTERN ONTARIO  -- Despite some extreme temperatures and a few isolated incidents with army worms, Eastern Ontario crops are looking good this season.

    Army worms showed up in St. Isodore and in one field just south of Chesterville. And while those situations have been taken care of, Gilles Quesnel, OMAFRA Crop Specialist said the region wasn't quite out of the woods yet.

    "There's probably two more weeks yet that we could have problems," said Quesnel.

    While the worms' adult-stage moths are not trapped and assessed for numbers in Ontario, Quesnel said that Quebec, just over the border, was picking up a higher number of the insects. "From a cropping standpoint, in another two weeks the wheat grain will be well on its way to being filled and not much of an issue if the leaves had been chewed off," said Quesnel. "The risk seems to be diminishing but I wouldn't be surprised if we would hear about a few hot spots."

    He advises farmers to check their fields in the early morning or late evening when it isn't too hot to see if they have larvae and they are feeding.

    Farmers should only look into spraying if they see more than four or five larvae per square foot of field, and admits it's hard to count because they are checking at night.

    "If the larvae are more than an inch in length, they are ready to pupate and they have stopped feeding," said Quesnel. The worms are gray-black or gray-brown with a yellow-greenish stripe down each side. They are a soft bodied, hairless caterpillar.

    "With a bit of moisture that we have had on and off, some areas the caterpillar has crawled to the top of the plant and it's hanging down, it's dead, that's an indication there is a parasite that attacked it. Because we have been in the cycle for a long time now, we started with army worm about three weeks ago, some of the spores for parasites are starting to be more widespread."

    The concern was the worms might move into corn, but Quesnel said they haven't seen a whole lot of that. When the army worms started, the corn was in the seven to nine leaf stage and while they will attack corn, the crop can take a lot of defoliation with minimal yield loss early in its development.

    Hail was the soy bean crop's enemy this year in a few areas. Bourget, St. Isodore and some of Glengarry County experienced some hail damage. However, even though those areas saw the bean plants shredded by hail, it was early in the season and most of the crop is expected to recover nicely. Less than 1,000 acres had to be replanted due to the damage, Quesnel estimated.

    For the most part, soy beans are just entering the flowering period and by and large they were planted under pretty good conditions, and right now look good.

    As for corn, Eastern Ontario is about seven to ten days ahead of schedule, he said.

    "I would guess usually we have a few fields of corn tassling around the 20-25 of July. Last year it was almost the beginning of August.

    "This year by the middle of July we should have quite a few acres of corn tassling."

    Most corn has already surpassed the old "knee-high by the fourth of July" bellwether and looks to be about shoulder high.

    "With some windy days we have had, we had some fields that were ragged looking for awhile. Corn was growing so fast that the growth was so soft. We had several windy days that the leaves were kind of flopping to one side" he said. "There was some concern over that, but then we had some colder nights and things slowed down a bit. And corn has adjusted well."

    It was mentioned at the North Gower Grains open house in late June that North America will have a record number of corn acres planted this year.

    Also on the soy bean front, aphids don't yet appear to be a big threat. Quesnel said he had seen a few fields with aphids in them in the Brighton and Belleville area, but samples were showing very low numbers. However, he cautioned growers to watch their fields.

    "It's too early to say if it will be a problem. I would say since 2004 we have had them every year. Last year we had to spray, but the previous three years, they started to build up, but a fungal disease called Pandora moved in and decimated the population."

    Spores from the fungus are now established in Eastern Ontario, usually offering a natural check on the critters.

    Farmers can tell if they turn the leaf over and the aphid has kind of a gray filament growing from it, that's the fungus growing and killing it, he says.

    "It's way too early to tell if we will have aphid problems," emphasizes Quesnel. "Yes they are starting to arrive, they are being blown in, but it's a matter of keeping an eye out."

    The first cut of the hay crop is also looking good, he says, with new seedings having done particularly well.

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