New problems threaten crops in the area - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Boll worms threaten corn, soybean and cotton crops

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

POINSETT COUNTY, AR (KAIT) -When flooding destroyed a good portion of the rice crop, many farmers were forced to plant soybeans to at least get a crop on the ground.

Now, a new threat to those crops is raising its head with boll worms by the thousands. Worms are eating the bean pods and also cotton bolls. The worm also is found in growing corn ears. Poinsett County Agent Craig Allen says his moth traps are filled with hundreds of moths at a time.

And every pod that a worm eats is taking money out of a farmers pocket.

Poinsett County Extension Agent Craig Allen was sweeping soybean fields with a net looking for bollworms. He explained what kind of damage these worms can do as pod feeders.

Allen, "If they (plants) are flowering they can eat that bloom off. As the pod gets bigger they'll eat into that pod and if there are 3 or 4 beans in there they may eat one of the beans out of it."

That doesn't sound to bad but with one female laying up to 3 thousand eggs that is a lot of worms eating at a crop. Boll worms mature quickly from less than a quarter of an inch to about an inch and a half in12 days. They then become moths again and the cycle starts over.

The Extension service has 5 traps scattered around the county to try and catch moths who have flown here usually from Texas. Once they are in the traps they are counted by hand.

Allen, "If we can catch a hundred moths in a trap a day that's starting to get to an alert level."

In a trap located outside Harrisburg he counted out more than 300 moths, a sure sign of a worm problem. Last week on Friday the trap had held about a thousand moths. Normally moth flights are cyclical, but not this year.

Allen, "From the first of June, even maybe in May there has been a continual rolling cycle and not given us that 2 or 3 week break."

On the average it can cost a farmer 14 - 15 dollars an acre to spray pesticide to control the insects, it is usually done by air but can be done from the ground.

Allen, "Some of the farmers have had to spray 3 and 4 times and we heard of some spraying 5 times last year."

By trapping and monitoring, the Extension service is helping farmers to determine when they need to spray. Allen says farmers need to wait after they find newly hatched worms to allow the new laid eggs to be killed off as well.

Allen, "By going with our thresholds we're hoping to reduce the amount of sprayings and put some money back in the farmers pocket."

Allen says he is getting the same question over and over again.

"When are they going to quit? The answer is, we don't know."

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