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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.

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