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Allison Strub

R4-R5 Pod Development Stage in Soybeans as well as a new Weed Pest in Western New York

This is me scouting Soybeans at one of the farms participating in the TAg Soybean team of Ontario County in Western New York.

As we move into August, the main focus with soybeans is pod development and maturation. Of the seven fields participating in the TAg Team of Ontario County here in Western New York all of them seem to be right on track for a good return at harvest time. The plants are between the R4 and R5 growth stages. The “R” stands for reproductive stage and the numbers are a mere gauge for the growth of the bean pods. As of right now the plants that are at the R4 growth stage are at an average length of 2 cm long at one of the four uppermost nodes on the main stem with a fully developed leaf. The plants that are at the R5 growth stage has pods that are 3mm in length and is at one of the four uppermost nodes on the main stem with a fully developed leaf. The biggest concern now for growers is to keep beating the drought like conditions that have been coming in stages. The pods need moisture in order for the pods to fill, so rain is a welcomed friend to the growers.

Close up of Field Horse tail weed.

In other news, I have been seeing a new weed in some of the Soybean fields that I have been scouting that is a rising concern for the agriculture community, Field Horsetail.  Field Horsetail has been found worldwide but predominantly in cereals and grasses, but it can also be found in vegetable crops, pastures, landscape settings, woodlands, waste areas, and roadsides as well as along railroads. It can tolerate a range of soil conditions but does best in sandy, gravely, or wet poorly drained soils. Field horsetail is resistant to most agronomic herbicides, and can survive under many conditions because of its deep rhizomes and tubers. Rhizome fragments and tubers are easily spread to new areas in infested soil through farm machinery. As a result, this species is often difficult to control. It can be a strong competitor with crops, as well as a threat to grazing animals due to toxic compounds. In addition, field horsetail extracts can inhibit germination and reduce vigor of 30 grass species. With its high resistance and few answers as to how and control this weed, it is becoming a big concern to growers.

A patch of Field Horsetail Weed found on the edge of a field in Ontario County.

Alfalfa Harvest and Spider Mite Infestation in Western New York

Tools used to gather alfalfa samples at Coyne’s farm in Aurora New York.

This post starts at Coyne’s alfalfa fields in Avon New York located in Livingston County. I joined a group that was taking the third cutting samples from six different fields. The trial is looking at the impact of different nutrient applications in relation to the growth and composition of the alfalfa. The three different nutrient-treatments in the trial were calcium, sulfur and calcium, and the third sample was grown without calcium and sulfur.

Alfalfa sample collected from test plot at Coyne’s.

Spider mites have become the new pest issue in soybean fields in Western New York. Spider mites become an issue when there are drought-like conditions, which has been the case in Western New York this season. Spider mites can group at the field edges, especially if there are weeds surrounding the borders. Eventually they can disperse with the wind to develop a field-wide infestation. Spider mites feed on the underside of the foliage with sucking mouth parts and may be very destructive when found in large numbers. Under hot and dry field conditions, spider mites thrive on plants that are under stress. Soybean foliage infested with spider mites initially exhibits a yellowish speckled or stippled appearance. As plants become heavily infested, foliage turns yellow, then bronze, and finally the leaves drop off the plants as the effect of heavy feeding leads to dehydration and death of plant. With more and more concern arising from the presence of spider mites from farmers, the answers for treatment are not cut and dry. There is no measure for economic threshold, rather treatment depends on the length of infestation in comparison to plant growth stage. Most of the fields that I have been scouting are starting to form small bean pods and are in a very vulnerable growth stage to be hit with the spider mite infestation. With the anticipated rain in the forecast, we hope that on this week’s scouting trip, spider mites will not still be a looming pest.

Soybean Scouting in Western New York

As wheat harvest comes to a close, my focus is now mainly on scouting the soybean fields of Ontario County. Beans are thriving and growing rapidly due to the warm weather, although drought is starting to become a factor for some farmers. Another piece of bad news is that Soybean Aphids are now infesting Western New York.

Soybean field of Jonathan Garman, one of the farmers participating in the Ontario County TAg program.

If I was to average the measurements of what I am seeing in the fields, plants are between the V3-V4 growth stage meaning that there is three to four fully branched leafs on each plant. Due to the warm weather plant viruses and bacteria infection problems have been scarce if present at all in fields. On the other hand insect pest are starting to become a higher problem.  Some of the pest that I am finding in the fields is Clover Worms, Japanese Beetles, Leaf Hoppers and Aphids. Spider Mites are also becoming a problem to some of the farmers. The Spider Mites increase is attributed to the warm temperatures and lack of precipitation. The plants that are being most affected are the ones closest to ditches and dirt roads or grassy banks. Spider Mites have sucking mouth parts, which drain the juices from the plants leaf leaving them to shrivel and die. This leaves the plant weak at the critical growth stage right before bean pod production. None of the fields that I have been scouting are above economic thresh hold, but with the plants continuing to develop I will have to keep a close watch to ensure thresh holds remain in a safe zone.

I have also been put in charge of monitoring the Ontario County Western Bean Cutworm trap, located on Harold Weavers farm in Gorham New York.  I have made three visits to see how many moths the trap is reeling in and the count is on the rise.  Starting with week one we had zero moths, the second week we had one moth, and this past week the trap was up to seven months.

Example of healthy nodule growth on Soybean plant.

Clover Worm, on of the pest that causes defoliation to Soybean plants.

Although a short report I will be reporting back soon with information I have gathered from the Musgrave Research Farm Field Day and continued reports of Soybean Scouting. Until next time!


Scouting for Armyworm and Fusarium Head Blight in Wheat

Me scouting wheat for signs of pest and disease damage.

Armyworm, armyworm, armyworm! The past few weeks nothing has been a larger concern to wheat and field crop growers than the army worm infestation in Western New York. Several farmers have been plagued by this relentless pest, and concerns are on the rise as to what the economic damage has been to growers this year. The armyworm is primarily a pest of grasses, small grain crops and corn. The insect will also attack alfalfa, beans, clover, flax, millet, and sugar beets. Feeding and movement occur at night or on cloudy days. During the daytime, armyworms hide under vegetation, loose soil or in soil cracks. Caterpillars consume more and more vegetation as they grow. Since they feed at night and hide during the daytime, armyworms often cause considerable damage before being discovered making them a dangerous pest for growers.

Here army worms are feeding on the head of wheat plants.


To the left you can see the damage that armyworms can do to the wheat plants. If you look closely the leafs have been stripped from the plants and the damage is now being done to the heads of the wheat.

The next major concern is the possibility of another generation of armyworm growing during the growing season. The life cycle of the army worm is now at the pupate stage. The larvae move under litter and soil clods, or burrow 2 to 3 inches into the soil, where they make small cells in the soil and pupate. About two weeks later, moths emerge from pupal cases, mate, and lay eggs for the next generation.  A great deal of concern is on the rise as to weather there will be a second plague if these pest or not, only time will tell.

I have been visiting several farms in the Western New York region not only scouting for armyworm, but for wheat disease as well, focusing mainly on  Fusarium Head Blight and Rust. Fusarium head blight or head scab is caused by the fungus Fusarium graminearum. The disease causes tremendous losses by reducing grain yield and quality and is a growing concern for wheat producers in Western New York. Symptomology of head blight in wheat  is any part or all of the head may appear bleached. The partly white and partly green heads are diagnostic for the disease in wheat.

Here is an example of head bleaching due to Fusarium Head Blight.

The fungus also may infect the stem  immediately below the head, causing a brown – purplish discoloration of the stem tissue. Additional indications of head blight infection are pink to salmon-orange spore masses of the fungus often seen on the infected spikelets and glumes during prolonged wet weather.

There is no simple cure for Fusarium Head Blight in producers fields so a combination of treatments is suggested. Seed treatment and the use of high-quality seed will help reduce seedling blight due to infected seed but will not protect against subsequent head blight.  The main precautions for growers to consider while aiming to prevent against head blight are seed treatment, tillage, crop rotation, planting date, and resistance.

Here you can see the salmon colored fungal spores associated with Fusarium Head Blight.

Although there is no wheat variety that has true resistance to the head blight, there are certain varieties that show moderate resistance to the blight that are recommended for growers use.

With wheat reaching the date of harvest, my scouting skills will be relocated to the soybean fields of Western New York! Stay tuned for my next scouting adventure!



Getting Started! Scouting and CCE Tours in Western New York.

What a fun and hectic few weeks I have had and I am only getting started! I have been busy learning the lay of the land here in Western New York and getting  just a taste of what will be in store for me during these next few summer months.  My terrain will include Ontario, Wayne, Yates, Livingston, Wyoming, Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Genesee, and Monroe counties.  I will be, and have been working with  the  North Western New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops teams in a variety of scouting expeditions and programs throughout the summer season.

One of my first days on the job I helped to set up the Soybean TAg Team portfolios  for participating farmers in Ontario and Genesee counties. The soybean TAg team project is a tactile agriculture soybean management and education program for producers in New York. The goal of this program is to increase the producer knowledge of agronomic and economic aspects of soybean production with an emphasis on the identification, biology, and management of critical pests, including diseases, weeds and insects. The program also teaches the producers the value of scouting their fields for pest to determine if pesticide applications are warranted and economically justified.  By the end of the program we are hoping that the growers will have an increased knowledge of Integrated Pest Management and Integrated Crop Management as well as improved growing practices.

I also spent a day with the Nancy Glazier touring farms and establishments for the Beef Quality Assurance program for beef producers in the Wyoming County area.  The BQA in a day Workshop was held the 16th of June with twenty or so participants. The training took place on a small family farm in Hermitage New York where participants had the opportunity to revive  basic certification for beef handling and production from the Beef Quality Assurance program. Also that day in Wyoming County I had the opportunity to tour the new possible location for the Wyoming County Cornell Cooperative Extension Office. The building is an old ware house in need of renovation, but if the plans go through will  house the state offices for the county along with the Cooperative Extension offices and the counties 4-H program, very exciting news for the Wyoming County team.

My next adventure was with Jackson Wright the Dairy Management Specialist from the NWNY livestock team. That day I tagged along with a group of dairy farmers from Ontario County and toured an organic dairy operation as well as a conventional dairy operation who converted to a group calf housing system. The purpose of adopting the group calving system is to improve calf herd health. The group claving system is being put into use along with an automated feeding system.  Contrary to conventional thinking, the group calving system has not led to an increase in disease. Rather, the automated feeding system has freed up the herdsmen to spend more quality time with the calves, catching and preventing disease from occurring in the first place. And perhaps best of all, when reared in groups and allowed to express their natural behavior, the calves are thriving at a significantly higher rate than in the previously used system of individual calf hutch housing.

Until next time, off for more adventures!

Two happy calves at the organic group housing system.

Automated Feeding System

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