Field Crop News, Vol. 12:14, June 5, 2012

In This Issue:

Weather Outlook — Kyle Imhoff, Assistant Pennsylvania State Climatologist

Below normal temperatures and showers will continue for the next two days. High temperatures will be in the upper 60’s to lower 70’s for Wednesday and Thursday with scattered showers or thunderstorms occurring mainly in the afternoon/evening both days. On Friday, a ridge of high pressure will build in from the west, but eastern parts of the state could still see a stray shower. Temperatures will steadily moderate through the weekend and reach the 90’s in many sections by early next week. Under the influence of high pressure, mostly sunny skies will persist for the weekend allowing much improved drying conditions. At least in eastern Pennsylvania there is a 75% chance of 4 consecutive dry days from Friday through Monday. A disturbance will begin to approach the region from the west later Tuesday into Wednesday, bringing the threat for thunderstorms back to the region. Temperatures should remain above normal into the middle of next week.

While not expected to directly impact Pennsylvania, a tropical disturbance (tropical storm) may form in the Gulf of Mexico during the next week. There are signs of a resurgence of heat during the week of June 17th–23rd and showers are expected to be less frequent.

With respect to the long range outlook for the remainder of the summer, there are indications that July will continue to have above, or much above, normal temperatures.

A Horde of Armyworms — John Tooker, Penn State Entomology Specialist

Many weeks on the calendar are declared to be official events. A few weeks ago, for example, folks around the country recognized National Bike-to-Work Week. Perhaps someone designated last week and this week ‘Pennsylvania True Armyworm Weeks’ without telling me. The damage we have seen and the number of reports of damage that we have received has been remarkable. From nearly every portion of the state (as well as up in New York), we have heard of true armyworms chewing up corn fields, clipping the heads in wheat fields, and marching into grass hay fields. It is certainly the most substantial influx of armyworm in years.

Growers should realize their fields are at risk and get out there and look for damage. True armyworm damage to corn begins from the edge of the leaves, and often looks ragged with large pieces of tissue removed, but armyworms rarely eat the leaf midrib (Fig. 1). In heavy damage, little more than the midrib of corn leaves will be left. Armyworms feed at night and hide in the corn whorl during the day, where their brown, wet, mushy feces accumulate. The great majority of feeding damage occurs when the larvae are nearly mature, which accounts for much of the damage seemingly appearing overnight.

True armyworm damage to corn seedlings

Fig. 1. True armyworm damage to corn seedlings in Centre County. Note the large pieces of leaf tissue removed that stop at the midrib. Photo by John Tooker, Penn State.

In wheat, armyworms will first feed on leaves and then progress upward to the head, which they can clip off as they try to get enough food. During the day, they hide at the base of plants. Clipped heads on the plant (Fig. 2) or the ground (Fig. 3) are good signs of their presence.

Wheat head clipped by true armyworm and remaining on plant

Fig. 2. A wheat head clipped by true armyworm and remaining on the plant. Photo by John Tooker, Penn State.

Clipped wheat heads are a good sign that true armyworms are active in the stand

Fig. 3. Clipped wheat heads are a good sign that true armyworms are active in wheat stands. Photo by John Tooker, Penn State.

Bt hybrids and seed treatment do not claim to provide significant control of true armyworm, so the best control option is to scout fields and apply rescue treatments. When scouting corn fields, look for leaf feeding and presence of caterpillars in the whorl, where they hide during the day. Control efforts are usually not economical unless 10 percent or more of the plants are infested. A varietyof insecticides are available for controlling true armyworm, but keep in mind that control gets to be more challenging as caterpillars grow and get to be one-inch long or greater. Available and effective insecticides, in no particular order, are those with active ingredients of cyfluthrin, lambda cyhalothrin, zeta-cypermethrin. For growers wanting to conserve natural enemies in their fields, a few products provide good control of armyworm and have little activity against predators and parasitoids; these products include Tracer and Intrepid 2F. Organic growers can turn to Entrust. Growers should use higher rates the heavier the infestation and the larger the caterpillars. Given frequent rains, it is probably best to take advantage of any spray window that comes around and keep in mind that a stretch without rain will help improve insecticide efficacy. For details on insecticide options, see the Agronomy Guide and be sure to consult labels for specifics for each product. For more details on true armyworm, see our fact sheet.

Grain Crop Update — Greg Roth, Grain Crop Management

Corn. Much of the corn crop is developing nicely, with some reaching the knee high stage by the fourth of June not July this year. NASS crop reports estimate 85% of the crop as good to excellent. The cool, wet weather has slowed growth a bit and caused some wet areas to start yellowing, probably from a combination of denitrification and flooding stress. For the most part the yield potential is excellent on many fields as they have attained the deep green color earlier than normal this year. When warm temperatures resume, crop development will advance rapidly and the window for sidedressing and postemergent applications will close. A few areas are still trying to wrap up planting and the wet weather has caused some delays in finishing up.

Wheat. Wheat has recovered from the early drought stress and tiller development has been good with many heads filling out in relatively dense canopies. Yield potential looks excellent in some of the fields I have seen. NASS crop reports estimate 90% of the wheat crop as good to excellent. Disease pressure is building with powdery mildew advancing to the flag leaf on susceptible varieties and glume blotch appearing on the heads. Maturity is well ahead of normal. Now is the time to monitor fields for scab development and to make plans for an early harvest. Growers in non-traditional double cropping areas may want to make plans for some soybean double cropping and can increase the potential for this by harvesting early, drying the wheat and making arrangements for timely straw harvest.

Barley. Barley harvest is underway, with some lodging reported on heavily manured fields that have encountered storms during the past two weeks. I have not received any reports on test weight or mycotoxins yet in this year’s crop. Yield potential looks to be fair to good on much of the barley I have observed during the past two weeks.

Soybeans. Soybean planting is ahead of normal with many fields planted and emerged but some are suffering from slug damage and other issues requiring some replanting. Remember that unlike corn, soybeans with patchy stands can be filled in to bring the stand up to adequate levels. A corn planter is ideal for these purposes since it does not destroy as much of the existing stand. Double crop plantings usually benefit from higher seeding rates due to the reduced canopy development. Our recommendation is for a final plant population of 200,000 in double crop soybeans and to use a drill rather than planter if possible. With the early planted soybeans following barley this year there may be less need to plant at these higher rates. To reduce seed costs in marginal double cropping situations, some growers are opting to exclude the seed treatment or go with conventional varieties but we don’t have any good data on the economics of these options.

Spring grains. Oats are heading out here in Centre County. Some fields and field edges are showing evidence of severe barley yellow dwarf virus. One report indicated more BYDV when oats were planted as a companion crop in a forage seeding into a wheat cover crop. Early planted winter cover crops can act as a “green bridge” for aphids and exacerbate this problem. Also, selecting oat varieties with better resistance to BYDV might be an option when using them in these intensive cover cropping scenarios. Our spring barley lines are also showing evidence of virus symptoms suggesting this problem may have been widespread.

If You Want to Use Glyphosate in the Future, Best to Tank-mix Now — Dwight Lingenfelter and Bill Curran, Penn State Weed Science

As we move into the seasonal time frame of applying more post herbicides, this is just a reminder to always consider herbicide resistance management. With many acres of Roundup Ready crops being planted, properly managing herbicides, especially glyphosate, to prevent resistance is always a challenge.

The first consideration is using the proper rate of glyphosate depending on the size of the weeds. In most cases, for 4–6 inch tall weeds use 0.75 lb ae of glyphosate Be sure to increase glyphosate rates when required by larger weed sizes. Avoid thinking that glyphosate can control any weed, at anytime. Glyphosate does not provide equal control of all weed species. Glyphosate tends to be weak on annual morningglories, lambsquarters, velvetleaf, nightshade, smartweed, and ragweeds, especially if they are larger in size (8 inches or taller).

Another consideration is to tank mix with other herbicides which have different modes of action yet control a similar complement of weeds. Also, tank mixing broadens the weed control spectrum and provides additional insurance for reducing resistance. In RR soybeans, tank mix with Pursuit, Scepter, Raptor, FirstRate, Classic, Reflex, Warrant, or Harmony SG.

In RR corn, consider adding atrazine, Clarity, Status, Impact/Armezon, Capreno, Yukon, Northstar, Resolve Q, or Steadfast Q. Keep in mind there are certain products that are already pre-mixed with glyphosate including, Extreme, Flexstar GT 3.5, and Halex GT. Some of these herbicide combinations provide some soil residual activity after the post application.

In order to preserve glyphosate’s usefulness now and in the future, it is important to use necessary resistance management tactics. Otherwise we will lose another valuable weed control option.

Other things to watch for: ALS herbicide injury in corn. With all the wet weather, we are setting up for a repeat of last year with corn injury from ALS herbicide products applied preemergence. Watch out for fields that are stunted and chlorotic. Also, we are expecting to see more weed escapes as soil-applied, residual herbicides are degrading and/or are being washed away with the abundance of rainfall. If these happen, we will provide more details in future newsletters.

How Soon Can Newly Baled Hay Be Fed? — Marvin Hall, Penn State Forage Specialist

With forage shortages lingering from last year, some hay producers are selling their newly baled hay right out of the field. Because some animal owners are feeding this hay immediately there have been concerns about how SAFE this hay is to feed before it goes through a “sweat”.

Newly baled hay usually goes through a “sweat” because it continues to lose moisture from the bale until the moisture content becomes equilibrated with the surrounding air. Hay baled at 20% moisture will usually drop to about 12% moisture within a few months of baling. Add to this moisture loss, the heat generated from continued respiration in the bale and you have what is known as a “sweat”.

Ideally, hay should be fed in the order in which it was placed into storage (first in, first out) which means that hay would normally have been in storage for at least a few days before being fed. However, the tight hay supply means that this isn’t always possible this year.

There are no animal health problems directly associated with feeding newly baled hay. However, animals should be gradually acclimated to this new feed. Just like with any new feed, acclimating the animals helps avoid digestive problems associated with rapid changes in feeds.

An additional consideration when selling or buying hay directly from the baler is the amount of water being sold or bought. A ton of newly baled hay (20% moisture) will contain about 180 lbs more water than stored hay at 12% moisture.

Weather Effects on Forage Quality — Paul Craig, Assistant Director of Programs, Field and Forage Crops

Any forage producer knows that both the yield and quality of forages is impacted by any rain that occurs from the time the forage is cut until it is actually consumed by the animal. Rain causes quality and tonnage losses to forages in many ways. By keeping the vegetation moist, the natural process of plant respiration continues in the windrow. Plant respiration uses carbohydrates in plant cells until moisture levels drop below 15%. When the respiration process continues for an extended period, the overall energy content of the forage is reduced, greatly affecting quality.

A second way rain can impact forage quality is by actually washing soluble plant components such as carbohydrates, proteins and minerals out of the plant cells. This washing out is commonly referred to as leaching.

Leaf shattering and loss is also common in rain damaged forages, especially legumes. This loss can occur from actual rain impact but most often results from the extra raking that is necessary to promote additional drying.

If the harvest windrow remains too wet, too long, undesirable microbes and molds can develop that will consume what little plant carbohydrates remain, further reducing forage quality and adding to the risk of harmful mycotoxins.

How much does rainfall reduce yields? Researchers at Wisconsin and Michigan looked at this effect on alfalfa. In Wisconsin, they measured a 22% loss in dry matter when alfalfa was exposed to 1 inch of rain after cutting. The investigators also noted a 44% loss to alfalfa exposed to 1.6 inches of rain over several days.

In Michigan, one study found dry matter losses in excess of 34%. Both studies concluded that the greatest losses happened when rainfall occurred following a longer curing period.

How does rainfall intensity and forage moisture affect quality losses? In the same studies the results are very clear. With the same amount of rainfall, a long, low intensity rain results in greater leaching losses than a short duration, high intensity rain event. In addition, the Wisconsin study clearly showed that as the forage cures in the field and moisture declines, it is more prone to dry matter losses from rain.

The researchers were trying to answer the question of “Do I cut my hay or not, if it is ready based on maturity but rain is in the forecast?” Their conclusion - there is no easy answer because the impact of the rainfall on loss of yield and quality varies with timing, amount, and duration. At Wisconsin they grouped the answer into low risks and high risks for the management decision. Lower risk situations involved ensilaging; small acres to harvest; rain forecast for early in the harvest period; forecasted rain is of short duration or scattered; pure grass; already beyond optimum harvest stage; use of drying agents or preservatives; and the ability to market, feed or store separately from higher quality forages.

With access to local weather reports from the Internet, producers now have greater access to up to datecurrent weather information. However even the best forecaster is never 100% accurate and forecasting longer than 36 hours is often a good guess at best.

For additional information check out the following web site:

Marketing – prices moved again! — John Berry, Lehigh County Extension

Not too many years ago, agriculture seemed to be the only part of our economy that knew the word volatility. More recently, it does my heart good to listen to most every faction of the economy complain about managing risk in a volatile market place. “It’s about time!” my spouse is tired of hearing me mumble as I surf my early morning financial data sources. Who didn’t see a housing bubble that made you wonder when it might end? Who hasn’t questioned a top in energy markets? How cheap would a car manufacture have to get before prices would recover? I ask you to explain to me how agriculture is any different. It goes up. It goes down.

The challenge for me is timing. The “When will it go down/up?” is much more difficult for me to come to grips with as I help producers decide what might be a reasonable marketing strategy. As a way to modify the stress of hitting market highs I am now much more comfortable with capturing a price opportunity when it appears profitable. Pieces at a time, not all at once. Somebody said it is difficult to go broke when you are making a profit (no matter how small). Of course, the real challenge then becomes how to insulate my ego as a neighbor or relative tells of their great decision that I missed because of this quirk in my personality. It helps if I can recall the poor decisions this same person has also made, but not much.

Additionally, in my gut I do believe there is no one or no group that has the capacity to move markets. There is no conspiracy. Sure, if China cancels an order prices may shift some, but not very far and typically, not for very long. Things do happen. My point is that instead of identifying villains in the agriculture market I prefer to spend energy on understanding my break-even points. This serves at least two functions; 1) I can better decide if a price is “good enough”, 2) I can spend some time managing my costs.

So, where does this leave us? We are well into/past the historical point of seasonal grain price deterioration. The opportunities for a significant and lasting price spike may be quite limited between today and our 2012 harvests. Yes, the growing global population has to eat. Yes, 2011 crop carry over is very, very tight. However, we are only a couple months away from what could be the largest harvest in the history of the world. Long term I am quite optimistic for those producing food for the hungry. I know I sure like to eat. Short term I am hoping we have some of our anticipated 2012 crop yields priced already.

For a little grain marketing education be sure to check out the twice monthly Grain Marketing Webinar Series. For a sample of how these webinars go, check out the May 16th recording at To find additional live webinar details and registration information go to

Upcoming Events

2012 Farming for Success Field Day – June 21st, 2012

Penn State Extension is pleased to announce the “The Farming for Success 2012” Field Day which will be held at the Penn State Southeast Agricultural Research and Extension Center (SEAREC), on June 30th.

Respected and informative speakers will address numerous production agriculture topics. In total, 14 different topics will be available to choose from. A sampling of topics includes:

  • Perdue Soybean Crushing Plant Update: Hear directly from Perdue, details and progress toward receiving local beans for 2013, Dick Cole & Peter Heller, Perdue Agri-business
  • All about Drills: Proper drill calibration and establishment are the essential first steps to reaping the many benefits of forage and cover crop species. See various brands of drills, & chat with representatives, Steve Groff, Cover Crop Solutions, LLC.
  • See research being conducted on the farm and view field demonstrations including the new poultry litter (sub-surfer) manure injection system.
  • Local ag sponsors will have equipment on display and personnel on hand to help you improve your crop production practices and answer your questions.

The program begins promptly at 9:00 AM, and concludes by 3:00 PM. Pre-registration cost: $5:00 (if received by noon of June 29th). Walk-in registration: $10.00. Registration includes a BBQ lunch. For preregistration and information contact Jeff Graybill, Penn State Extension in Lancaster County, 717–394–6851. The Penn State Southeast Agricultural Research and Extension Center (SAREC) is located at 1446 Auction Rd., Manheim, PA 17545.

Strategies for Soil Health and Nutrient Conservation Field Day – June 27, 2012

A comprehensive cropping systems field day is planned for June 27, 2012 at Penn State’s Agronomy Research Farm located on the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center ten miles west of State College. The event will begin with registration and light refreshments at 8:45 at the Livestock Evaluation Center located approximately 1.5 miles east of the Ag Progress Days site. A review of the highlights of three different experiments will be included. The field day participants will be able to spend time listening to researchers and several farmers who are practitioners of some of the ideas being investigated. Attendees will hear about and see research in progress for five specialty areas being studied.

To register for the field day OR learn more about the full day event, please go online to:
Click on “Events”
Click on “Strategies for Soil Health and Nutrient Conservation Research Tour”
Registration can also be accomplished by calling: 877–489–1398 or contacting Ron Hoover,

Heritage, Organic and Specialty Crop Production Twilight Tour – June 28, 2012

The date of the tour is June 28, 2012, 6–8pm at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs, Gate G and hosted by the Penn State Extension Crop Management Team

Tour research plots and variety trials to see:

  • Emmer, einkorn, and spelt variety trials (organic & transitioning)
  • Wheat variety trials (soft & hard, winter & spring, heritage & modern varieties are included, organic & transitioning)
  • Fava bean seed production (organic)
  • Heritage hulless oats (non-organic)
  • Soybean performance after different histories of tillage, weed management, and crop rotation (organic).

Please RSVP to Charlie White at or 814–863–9922 if you plan to attend. The research center is 2.5 miles west of Pine Grove Mills, PA along Rt. 45. Enter at Gate G and follow signs to parking. Research and demonstration projects on the tour are supported by the USDA Organic Research and Extension Initiative, the USDA Risk Avoidance and Mitigation Program, and the Northeast SARE Pennsylvania State Program.

Contributors: : Extension Educators: Jennifer Bratthauar (Franklin), Joel Hunter (Erie), Mark Madden (Bradford), John Rowehl (York), Nicole Santangelo (Potter), Greg Hostetter (Juniata), Craig Williams (Tioga) John Berry (Lehigh); Extension Specialists: Marvin Hall, Doug Beegle, Ron Hoover, Dwight Lingenfelter, Crop and Soil Sciences; John Tooker, Entomology; Paul Craig, Assistant Director of Programs

Editor: Mike Fournier (Bucks)