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July 6, 2018
By Sarah CatoU of A System Division of Agriculture
(800 words)(Newsrooms, with downloadable art here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmeE3YeN )
Download Word version
LONOKE, Ark. – Fall armyworms, a common pest of soybeans, pastures and lawns, have
developed a taste for rice and extension entomologists are working on management methods
to help producers.
Gus Lorenz and Nick Bateman, extension entomologists for the University of Arkansas
System Division of Agriculture say answers to grower questions aren’t as simple as
“We’re starting to get a lot of phone calls about fall armyworms in the state, particularly
in rice,” Bateman said, adding, “and our current threshold is adopted from wheat,
which isn’t so accurate in rice.”
The ‘uh-oh’ thresholdAlthough a precise threshold does not currently exist, Lorenz has a basic recommendation
“This may not be the exact threshold,” he said, “but if you walk up on a field and
you see these fall armyworms and your first thought is ‘uh-oh,’ you probably need
Lorenz added that checking around the edges of fields and watching for certain weeds
can give a grower the hints they need.
“A really quick way to see if you have a problem is to go around the edges of your
field, particularly fields surrounded by woods on two or three sides, these are hot
spots,” Lorenz said. “If you go to a turn row and you have broadleaf signal grass
covered in fall armyworm, you need to scout that field.”
Examining defoliationUA-Fayetteville graduate student Layton McCullars is working to give growers a specific
threshold that will be based on how much damage the caterpillars have caused.
“Our threshold is going to be based on percent defoliation,” McCullars said. “So growers
can say ‘this much of the plant is gone, so I should spray.’”
McCullars is observing different levels of defoliation and the resulting yield loss.
“We’re manually defoliating our plots with scissors and with weed eaters,” McCullars
said, “We’re cutting plots down to 25, 50 and 100 percent defoliation to see at what
stage we start to see yield impacts.”
Last summer’s data showed the rice can take quite a hit before yield is lost.
“Prior to heading, growers need to start worrying when they get up to about 40-50
percent defoliation,” Bateman. “Based on some preliminary work we did last year, we
didn’t see major yield impacts until we started getting some really high defoliation
Although pre-headed rice can handle up to 40-50 percent defoliation, headed rice is
not as able to bounce back.
“Once we get to heading, if you get feeding on the flag leaf or the flag leaf minus
one (meaning the predominant leaf or the leaf below it) and you have about 25 percent
defoliation, then that would be a good indicator to treat,” Lorenz said. “Pre-heading
rice can take more defoliation at that time, it just might delay maturity a little
Whether it’s in pre-heading or headed rice, both Bateman and Lorenz warn against trigger-happy
“The products we’re going to use to control fall armyworms are mainly pyretheroids,
which can be very damaging to our beneficial insects,” Bateman said. “Prior to heading
we usually have a large number of long-horned grasshoppers and those grasshoppers
feed on rice stinkbug eggs. So, if we have a low amount of defoliation and we make
an application to control the fall armyworm anyway, we kill our beneficial insects
that would control that rice stinkbug population. We could end up hurting ourselves
down the road and costing ourselves money.”
Lorenz said he’s seen the damage unnecessary applications can cause first hand.
“We’ve seen this a few times where growers sprayed for fall armyworm and killed all
the beneficial insects that feed on rice stinkbug eggs and those people had a fit
trying to control rice stinkbug in those fields,” Lorenz said. “We don’t want to upset
that delicate balance and ecosystem by destroying our beneficial insects if we don’t
The most important thing growers can do right now is to scout.
“Being that it’s just the beginning of July, we expect the populations are going to
build over time,” Lorenz said. “Right now we’re alerting growers that they need to
be scouting their late planted rice and looking for developing populations of fall
armyworms, particularly in the edges of fields.”
For more information on treatment of fall armyworms in rice contact your county extension
office, or visit www.uaex.uada.edu or http://Arkansascrops.com.
About the University of Arkansas System Division of AgricultureThe University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A System Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) firstname.lastname@example.org