Monday, April 9, 2012

Springtime Weather Creates Pesky Pest Concerns in Alfalfa


 There’s something bugging me and alfalfa growers lately.

As I scout the lush, green alfalfa fields across the Valley, I’ve been coming across some worrisome signs: plenty of crop-damaging pests.

Lady bugs will be a farmer's best friend this season when
 it comes  to helping them control crop-damaging pests.
As I mentioned last week, the weather conditions are perfect for alfalfa weevils to flourish and nibbling away at the alfalfa. These bugs seem to be out of control. Right now, the early spring cutting, or harvest, has been able control the weevils. Treatments, however, appear to be short-lived.

There’s more on the pest front. Aphids are becoming a concern. This is the earliest I’ve seen a heavy amount of aphids in alfalfa in the past five or six years. Mites are quite evident as well. Growers need to keep their eyes open for any signs of heavy aphid pressure.

Growers are turning their freshly cut alfalfa to get them to dry.
Another pest I’m seeing in the alfalfa fields is lygus. Usually I see lygus showing up around mid-May. Alfalfa growers need to be aware of their surroundings to prevent these pests from migrating to neighboring crops such as cotton. When tackling these pests, growers should remember the importance of chemical rotation.

 With rainy weather remaining a threat at the moment, alfalfa growers are trying to dry their freshly cut crop. Currently, growers are turning over their freshly cut alfalfa lying on the ground to dry.  The wet side, or bottom,  is flipped over to face the sun and dry before baling.

Cotton beds are ready for planting.
In the cotton fields, some growers are getting a jump on planting their seeds. Some were out planting Friday and Saturday so the seeds can germinate by Tuesday because of a threat of rain locally on Wednesday and Friday. Grower beware: planting early before soil temperatures are warm enough or in poorly drained beds can increase seedling root rots. Activity, though, is definitely picking up as growers aim to finish planting by the end of April. For now, most cotton growers are playing a waiting game with Mother Nature, waiting to spring into action.

Field Day Coming Up: Here’s another reminder about our first Almond Field Day of the year. It will be from 10 a.m. to noon on Thursday, April 19 in Los Banos. The Almond Doctor, aka  pomologist David Doll of the UC Cooperative Extension in Merced County, and long-time entomologist Walt Bentley of UC IPM will share their expertise as they discuss the fruit development period. We’ll meet at an almond orchard at the corner of Mercy Springs and Cotton Gin roads in Los Banos. Look for the field day signs. You can also find directions at the Sustainable Cotton Project’s events website. Bring a neighbor.





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