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FARM SCENE: Corn Earworms Infesting Milo Fields

September 6, 1996

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) _ Corn earworms are staging a big-time invasion of some Kansas milo fields.

As farmers reported in after checking their crop over Labor Day weekend, ``we got a call about every five minutes,″ said Dale Ladd, the McPherson County extension agriculture agent.

The earworm has been found in many areas of southern and central Kansas. Ladd said he had never seen such an earworm infestation in milo in his eight years in McPherson County.

With milo prices running about $6 per 100 pounds, it only takes the loss of 200 pounds of milo an acre to justify spraying. When a farmer finds one half-inch earworm per head, authorities say, the loss is 5 percent of yield. When two earworms are found per head, a 9 percent yield loss is possible.

The head of the earworm is light brown while the body of the larvae varies in color from pink to green to brownish. Light and dark stripes run lengthwise on the body. The earworm reaches about 1 1/2 inches at maturity.

The damage the insects cause is more apparent in the soft-dough stage of the crop when the milo berries are formed but are very mushy when squeezed. As the milo progresses to the hard-dough stage, the worms slow down feeding.

``We are seeing more spraying on a daily basis,″ said Dean Whitehill, agriculture extension agent in Finney County. ``Farmers need to be checking on a field-by-field basis.″

Farmers who have milo nearing the harvest stage might not be able to kill the earworms on the crop with insecticides. Farmers who use some of the most popular chemicals must wait 14 to 60 days before they can harvest their crop.

To add to the farmers’ problems, the recent cool, damp weather could cause the milo crop to mature more slowly, giving the earworm larvae plenty of time to feast on fields, extension agents said.


QUEENSTOWN, Md. (AP) _ Corn and wheat farmers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore are predicting one of the biggest crops in recent history, although corn harvesting may occur two weeks later than usual.

Cool summer weather and plenty of moisture have contributed to unusually green corn and healthy wheat, said Paul Gunther of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service.

``Last year we had the drought situation where a lot of fields were producing 50 to 60 bushels less than average,″ Gunther said. ``This year’s growing conditions were excellent for crops.″

In an average year, farmers can expect to reap about 107 bushels of corn per acre, he said. This year, they will probably harvest a 124-bushel average. But the crop will be about two weeks late with harvesting in mid-September and into October since wet weather in early spring got the corn off to a slow start.

Wheat prices, meanwhile, have averaged an unusually high $4-a-bushel, said Marion Leaverton, a Queenstown farmer.

Wheat production worldwide was at a 50-year low, and reserve supplies of grains were down to an alarmingly low level early this summer. Although July’s harvest of soft red winter wheat is considered average, it was enough to pull the country out of danger, Gunther said.

While the Midwest and other countries have had low crop yields for several years, the Delaware-Maryland-Virginia area has been pulling its weight in wheat production, Gunther said.

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