Reflect on Insect Challenges in 2018

David Owens, Extension Entomologist, and Bill Cissel, Extension Agent – Integrated Pest Management;

Now that harvest season is starting (for corn), in sight (for soybeans) or we look like we might have some time to catch our breath after another hopefully fruitful season, it is a good time to reflect back on insect challenges or issues that came up in 2018. Were they worse or better than 2017? Did you have to deal with anything unusual? Were you pleased with the control strategy you used when you had to make an application? Did an insecticide go out that, looking back, might not have been necessary? Are there problems for which we don’t have good tools available? Reflection like this can help craft next year’s strategy. I would love to hear from you as you look back on the season and reflect. It may help you craft next year’s strategy, and it helps us understand what you dealt with and how we can target our 2019 insect game plan accordingly to help answer questions. Thank you and good luck bringing the rest of the crop in!

Fall Pasture Management Tips

Susan Garey, Extension Agent, Animal Science and State 4-H Animal Science Coordinator; and Phillip Sylvester, Kent Co., Ag Agent;

While summer may be over and the main grazing season concluded, the fall is one of the best times of the year to evaluate the condition of your pasture and complete pasture management tasks that will pay dividends the next grazing season. Spend some time now before it gets cold preparing your pastures for spring growth.

Soil Test: After a summer of grazing, fall is a great time to take soil samples to check and see where you stand on soil pH, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. This is important information to have when making management decisions such as how much fertilizer or lime to apply and if your pasture needs to be renovated. It also allows you to apply what is needed and to avoid over application which can have negative environmental impacts with runoff and leaching and also result in unnecessary spending. Testing should be done routinely every 2-3 years or prior to undertaking a partial or full pasture renovation. The University of Delaware offers soil testing as well as several private labs including Agrolab in Harrington.

Assess: Take a walk through your pasture. Observe and inventory what desirable pasture species are present, the ratio of grass to legumes, the types of weeds present, the stage of maturity of desirable species and weeds, how much bare soil there is and possibly use a compaction meter to see what the soil compaction levels look like from hoof pressure after a wet growing season.

Weed Control: The fall is a great time to do some weed control. Perennial weeds such as horse nettle, dogbane and thistle respond well to fall herbicide applications (as long as it hasn’t been too dry) because that’s when these weeds are translocating energy to store in their roots in preparation for overwintering. Herbicides should be applied according to label instructions and prior to the first frost. The Mid-Atlantic Weed Management Guide is an excellent regional resource and has a chapter devoted to forage weed management:

Lime: Based on your soil test results, apply lime in quantities to increase soil pH appropriately. Over time without the application of lime, soils generally become more acidic. The addition of certain fertilizers such as ammonium sulfate can also make soil more acidic. Acidic soils make nutrients less available for pasture species to uptake. Most pasture species prefer a soil pH between 6.0-6.5. Raising soil pH not only makes nutrients more available to pasture grasses and legumes for uptake but can also make soil bacteria more active which also helps to release nutrients. Based on your soil test results you will apply either high calcium lime or high magnesium (high mag) lime depending on your needs. Additional recommendations for liming pastures can be found here:

Fertilize: Based on your soil test results, and provided there is adequate soil moisture, apply nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) as needed. Soil test results allow you to apply the correct amounts of fertilizer needed which saves money and avoids over application. Fall is widely recognized as one of the best times to apply fertilizer. Fall applications of fertilizer help pasture stands to be hardier, overwinter better and be more productive in the spring. Phosphorus helps with root growth and development which in turn helps with pasture persistence and longevity of a stand. Potassium functions much like anti-freeze in a plant and assists it in coping with hot dry or extremely cold weather. Nitrogen provides for leaf growth and development and fall applications of nitrogen help boost pasture production the following spring. Fall applications should be completed by early November. Remember that Delaware nutrient management laws do not permit commercial fertilizers to be applied between December 7 and February 15. Additional recommendations for fertilizing pastures can be found here:

Mow/Drag: Mowing pastures promotes more even growth after a summer of grazing and can assist in weed control by clipping weed seed heads before they are viable. Pastures should be mowed no shorter than 3-4 inches to allow enough residual plant material for pasture species to store energy reserves for the winter. Dragging a pasture spreads manure more evenly then a cow or horse will. It also offers some benefit for internal parasite control by exposing parasites and their eggs to sunlight and desiccation or drying.

Rotationally Graze or Strip Graze: Develop a grazing plan based on visual evaluation of your pastures to rest and rotate your pastures. Divide pastures into smaller areas to reduce selectivity and force animals to graze more evenly if you find that forage is becoming too mature and being wasted in some areas of your field and overgrazed in others. Pastures should never be grazed less than 3-4 inches as it causes stress to the plant because they begin to use their root reserves instead of using their leaf material to produce more energy for growth. If a pasture is continuously overgrazed eventually the desirable pasture species utilize all of their root reserves causing them to die and leave bare spots in the pasture. Rotational grazing gives pastures a much-needed rest in between episodes of grazing. The length of regrowth time between grazing episodes is dependent on environmental growth conditions. Strip grazing is a type of rotational grazing and is a great technique for rationing pasture during times of less growth such as winter months. Animals are offered a portion of a field to graze and then are moved on a regular basis once that area is consumed. This is generally high intensity grazing for shorter periods of time.

Overseed/Reseed: Fall is actually the best time of the year to reseed a pasture. Seed germinates faster as soil temperatures are warmer than in the spring. Pasture seedlings get several months of a head start on spring weed growth which makes them able to compete better in the stand. If the existing stand simply needs thickening, then overseeding is a good option. If soil pH and fertility need dramatic adjustments, soil compaction is severe, weed pressure is heavy and desirable pasture species are thin then a full renovation with conventional tillage is probably in order. A common mistake is grazing newly renovated pastures too soon. Plants need time for strong root development so they aren’t pulled out by grazing animals or damaged by hooves. Full renovations require a good year of careful mowing, etc. prior to grazing animals being turned out. If you do not have the room to wait a full year, but still need a full renovation, considering breaking your pasture into sections, seeding one section per year. This way, the new section will be ready for animals as you prepare to renovate the next section the following year. This also helps with expenses, since full renovations can be costly.

Stockpile: Tall fescue grass pastures offer the ability to stockpile or grow forage and store it in the field to be grazed in late fall or winter. Tall fescue is uniquely suited to this practice as it actually maintains nutritional content and increases in palatability to the horse after the first frost. In order to stockpile tall fescue in the field for later grazing, an early fall application of nitrogen to stimulate leaf growth is necessary. Wait to graze until late fall or winter and consider utilizing strip grazing to maximize the utilization of stockpiled tall fescue.

Choose the Right Forage Species: This is one of the most costly inputs for pasture, yet is also the most important choice you can make for your pasture. Unfortunately, we do not share the same climate as Pennsylvania, Kentucky, or Western Virginia, which provide excellent conditions for perennial, cool season grasses. Our warm, humid environment tends to stress cool season grasses during the summer months, reducing the longevity of some species such as orchardgrass, timothy, and perennial ryegrass. There is an exception-tall fescue, particularly varieties containing the friendly (novel) endophyte, which tend to persist much longer when established correctly. Please note these are different than endophyte-free varieties, which tend to have less vigor. There are many pasture mixes available on the market so be sure to do your homework and be familiar with what is in the mix you are being sold or consider a custom mix of appropriate species for our growing conditions.

In conclusion, fall is a great time to evaluate your past grazing season. Think back — did you have times where pasture growth was in excess of what was being utilized by grazing animals? A time of deficiency? How can you overcome those times in the future? What did your pasture look like by the end of the summer? Often times when we are asked to make recommendations to help producers manage their pastures more effectively, we discover that pastures are being greatly overstocked and continuously grazed. Even when you follow good management practices, pastures that are overstocked will result in overgrazed, damaged stands that do not persist. Weeds are opportunists and bare soil allows them to germinate from existing soil reserves or propagate if they are not controlled. If you do not already have one, consider establishing a sacrifice lot or a place to put animals and feed hay when pastures cannot be grazed for a variety of reasons (too wet, too dry/droughty, no growth, when a pasture has been recently seeded or fertilized, or it is too cold and limiting growth rates). This practice will help extend the useful lifetime of your pastures. Hoof pressure on wet pastures in the winter damage the desirable plants and result in soil compaction. Pastures that are grazed year-round are less productive and need to be reseeded more often.

Consider a Fall Soil Nitrate Test to Guide Nitrogen Applications to Small Grains after Corn

Amy Shober, Extension Specialist – Nutrient Management and Environmental Quality,; Jarrod O. Miller, Extension Agronomist,; Phillip Sylvester, Extension Agent – Agriculture, Kent County,; Cory Whaley, Extension Agent – Agriculture, Sussex County,

Are you planning to plant small grains following corn this fall? If so, you might want to consider conducting a fall soil nitrate test (FSNT) to help guide fall nitrogen (N) management for wheat and barley. This quick test was developed by researchers at the University of Maryland to determine if there is enough N remaining in the soil to support adequate fall tillering of wheat and barley. We believe this test could be very useful this year, especially if you decided to apply additional N to corn due to the challenging weather conditions.

Collecting the Sample: Collect 15-20 soil cores per field or management units to a depth of 8 inches, avoiding areas that are not representative of field conditions (including, but not limited to, sidedress or starter bands, wet spots, areas with significantly different soil types, etc.). Mix soil cores thoroughly. Remove approximately 1 cup of soil from the bucket and spread it in a thin layer on paper to dry overnight. Submit the dried soil samples to an approved soil testing laboratory for nitrate (NO3-N) analysis. If necessary, lightly crush large soil pieces to make sure the lab gets a representative sample. If you are unable to dry the sample, it should be kept cool and delivered to the lab as soon as possible.

Interpreting the Results: The University of Maryland provides the following guidance for fall N fertilization based on soil test results. For wheat, no fall N application is recommended if the FSNT ≥11 parts per million NO3-N. Up to 30 lb/ac of fall N is recommended for wheat if soil NO3-N concentrations are <11 parts per million. For barley, no fall N application is recommended if the FSNT ≥8 parts per million NO3-N. Up to 30 lb/ac of fall N is recommended for barley if soil NO3-N concentrations are <8 parts per million.

University of Maryland researchers based these interpretations on profitable yield responses to N application of 30 lb/ac in field trials conducted between 2011 and 2014 at various soil NO3-N concentrations. Fall N applications of 30 lb/ac to wheat resulted in average increase in yield of 2.3 bu/ac when compared to plots receiving no N. Over 21 site-years, this fall application of N resulted in a yield increase 67% of the time when soil NO3-N concentrations were ≤10 ppm and 52% of the time when soil NO3-N concentrations were >10 ppm. However, probability of profitable response to 30 lb/ac decreased rapidly when fertilizer prices increased, small grain prices decreased, and soil NO3-N were >10 ppm. For example, University of Maryland researchers reported that a 5 bu/ac increase in yield was needed to provide a profitable outcome for application of 30 lb/ac fall N when wheat price was $5/bu, N cost was $0.60/lb, and application cost was $7/acre. During the Maryland field trials, the researchers reported that a 5 bu/ac yield increase due to fall N application (30 lb/ac) to soils occurred only 15% of the time when FSNT >10 ppm.

As such, we believe that the FSNT can be a useful tool to guide N applications to small grains this year. If you applied more N than needed, it is possible that residual N will be available to meet the early growth needs of your small grain. In this case, you may be able to skip the N applications and save some money without affecting yield. In contrast, if all of the N you applied to corn was taken up by the crop or lost via leaching or denitrification, then low soil nitrate concentrations will reveal the need for fall N applications to your small grains. If you do decide to apply fall N, you can often skip the ammonium sulfate. Sulfur needs are low for small grains in the fall. Instead use cheaper sources of N (e.g., urea, 30% UAN), which will improve your chances for a profitable response. If your soil test reveals the need for phosphorus, both MAP and DAP are options that contain N and P.

2018 Seasonal Rainfall and Temperature

Jarrod O. Miller, Extension Agronomist,

We have enough days in September to get a good average to finish out the season. The graphs below have rainfall (precipitation) as bar graphs, with the typical average in blue and this year’s rainfall in green. Average temperatures are yellow lines and this year’s temperatures are in red.

Newark had a drier June than normal, but most other months have 1-2 inches more rain than normal. Average temperatures in 2018 were warmer in May and throughout September, but were otherwise normal.

Dover had similar summer temperatures to Newark, but received higher than average rainfall every month between May-September. If you went to DEOS ( after most storms this summer, it was apparent that many storms seemed to move across the center of the state.

Georgetown was saturated in May, with 10.23 inches of rain compared to the normal of 4 inches. Through the summer, rainfall steadily fell until going far below normal in August with only 2 inches. Temperatures were not so kind in the southern half of the state, with both May and late summer having higher averages. Hopefully farmers in Sussex County kept the irrigation going in August. The rains have returned in September, delaying some of the corn harvest.

Potential Hurricanes and Flooding

Jarrod O. Miller, Extension Agronomist,

We avoided most of the flooding seen in the Carolinas with Florence, but hurricane season lasts until the end of November. Some later planted corn is still drying down, so saturated soils and winds may cause lodging, but there are no hurricanes on the horizon that may cause those issues. Full season and double crop beans are more likely to have issues if another storm heads for the Delmarva. Depending on development stage, storm conditions could increase disease pressure, cause lodging and shattering. For more detailed information, check out NC State extension as they dealt with the aftermath of Florence (

For fields along tidal streams and shorelines, hurricanes could bring salt water across fields. It may be necessary to perform soil tests in these fields to check for salt levels prior to next year’s crop. In general, if Na makes up more than 15% of the cation exchange capacity, lower yields could be observed. Total salts (which can include Ca and Mg) may also cause issues in fields flooded with tidewater. Gypsum works well if Na is the only issue, but irrigation is needed to leach soils high in Ca, Mg and Na.

Field Corn Insect Damage

David Owens, Extension Entomologist, and Bill Cissel, Extension Agent – Integrated Pest Management;

Corn earworms in field corn are not normally associated with yield loss in timely planted corn. This year, our timely planted corn had between 2 and 10% injured ears. However, because of the weather, we had a fair amount of late planted corn that was silking when our major earworm flight began. It wasn’t uncommon to find 2 – 4 earworms in one ear, and I have to think that at these numbers, they could contribute to lower yield through their direct feeding as well as opening the ear up to disease. We sprayed some of our late planted field corn 5 days after silk to no avail. To keep late corn clean chemically, it would require just as many sprays as sweet corn. Once larvae are in the silk channel, they are protected.

At the beginning of the season I shared the link to the handy bt trait table ( This table lists the BT trait packages and what pests they have good efficacy on. If you regularly plant late corn and don’t want to see damaged ears, this may be worth keeping in mind as you select among varieties for next year.

Guess the Pest! Week #25 Answer: Brown Stem Rot of Soybean

Bill Cissel, Extension Agent – Integrated Pest Management;

Congratulations to Jacob Urian for correctly identifying the disease as brown stem rot and for being selected to be entered into the end of season raffle for $100 not once but five times. Everyone else who guessed correctly will also have their name entered into the raffle.

Guess the Pest Week #25 Answer: Brown Stem Rot of Soybean
By Nancy Gregory, Plant Diagnostician;

Brown stem rot of soybean is caused by the fungus Cadophora. Brown stem rot symptoms on stems include a general browning that extends from the soil line up the stem, or starts at a node. Symptoms usually show up in mid-summer/pod fill. When affected stems are split lengthwise, there is a brown discoloration of the vascular tissue. Remnants of the pith made be observed in a ladder like pattern. Foliar symptoms look like sudden death syndrome but Fusarium would be found on basal stems with SDS. Symptoms for both diseases tend to be more severe in fields with soybean cyst nematode.

The BSR fungus survives in soybean residue in the soil, but not on seed, and infects roots early in the season during wet, cool conditions. Univ of Wisconsin researchers have shown that a pH lower than 6.5 favors the development of BSR. Management of brown stem rot includes crop rotation, good residue decomposition and selection of resistant varieties. Some resistance is available to BSR and to SCN. Seed treatments and fungicides do not control brown stem rot.

This was the last Guess the Pest challenge for the 2018 growing season.

Thanks to all that followed along each week and submitted answers. Next week, we will hold the “end of season” raffle for the $100 gift card. Everyone that submitted a correct answer will automatically be entered into the raffle for each correct answer that was submitted. If you were a weekly winner, you will have your name entered not once but five times into the end of season raffle. I will also be contacting you soon to make arrangements to get you a copy of A Farmer’s Guide to Corn Diseases.

Soybean Insect Scouting Update

David Owens, Extension Entomologist, and Bill Cissel, Extension Agent – Integrated Pest Management;

Insect populations are generally lower this week. Loopers can still be found in some fields, as can stink bugs and bean leaf beetle. Defoliation thresholds for R6 beans are considerably higher than earlier R-stage beans. Now that our earlier planted fields are starting to senesce or have dropped leaves completely, this is a good time to take stem samples for Dectes stem borer, especially in fields that had large numbers earlier or have a history of Dectes problems. If your field has a large stem infestation, prioritize that field for as timely a harvest as possible. Lodging loss potential increases with the percent of infested stems and late harvest.

USDA Prepared to Respond to Hurricane Florence

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2018 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds rural communities, farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses potentially impacted by Hurricane Florence of programs to provide assistance in the wake of disasters. USDA staff in the regional, State and county offices stand ready and eager to help. Additionally, USDA’s Operations Center will function around the clock.

“Our farmers and ranchers take financial risks every year to help feed and clothe the U.S. and the world, and a hurricane makes their situations even more perilous,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said. “At USDA, it’s our job to be there for them when they need help. All of our relevant agencies are ready to assist when natural disasters strike.”

USDA has important roles in both response to hurricanes and recovery efforts. USDA also is staffing the Regional Response Coordination Center in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Region IV, which covers eight states including North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. USDA is providing 24-hour staffing to the FEMA National Response Coordination Center, and has personnel supporting the North Carolina and South Carolina State Emergency Operations Centers. USDA also is supporting FEMA Region II Regional Response Coordination Center in New Jersey to assist response efforts for Tropical Storm Isaac and Hurricane Florence. Additionally, personnel from the U.S. Forest Service and USDA Office of the Inspector General are pre-staging in Charlotte, North Carolina to assist with public safety and security efforts.

USDA recently launched a disaster assistance discovery tool through its new website that walks producers through five questions to help them identify personalized results of which USDA disaster assistance programs can help them recover after a natural disaster.

In a continuing effort to serve the public, USDA also partnered with FEMA and other disaster-focused organizations and created the Disaster Resource Center website, located at This central source of information utilizes a searchable knowledgebase of disaster-related resources powered by agents with subject matter expertise. The Disaster Resource Center website and web tool now provide an easy access point to find USDA disaster information and assistance.

USDA also encourages residents and small businesses in impact zones to contact USDA offices which meet their individual needs.

Food Safety and Food Assistance
Severe weather forecasts often present the possibility of power outages that could compromise the safety of stored food. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) recommends consumers take necessary steps before, during, and after a power outage to reduce food waste and minimize the risk of foodborne illness. FSIS offers tips for keeping frozen and refrigerated food safe and A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes brochure that can be downloaded and printed for reference at home. Owners of meat and poultry producing businesses who have questions or concerns may contact the FSIS Small Plant Help Desk by phone at 1-877-FSIS-HELP (1-877-374-7435), by email at, or 24/7 online at:

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) coordinates with state, local and voluntary organizations to provide food for shelters and other mass feeding sites. Under certain circumstances, states also may request to operate a disaster household distribution program to distribute USDA Foods directly to households in need. As disaster response moves into the recovery phase, FNS may approve a state’s request to implement a Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) when the President declares a major disaster for individual assistance under the Stafford Act in areas affected by a disaster. State agencies also may request a number of disaster-related waivers to help provide temporary assistance to impacted households already receiving SNAP benefits at the time of the disaster, and to provide flexibilities in administering school meals, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, and other programs. Resources for disaster feeding partners as well as available FNS disaster nutrition assistance can be found on the FNS Disaster Assistance website.

Crop and Livestock Loss
The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) administers many safety-net programs to help producers recover from eligible losses, including the Livestock Indemnity Program, the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program, Emergency Forest Restoration Program (PDF, 257 KB) and the Tree Assistance Program. The FSA Emergency Conservation Program provides funding and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters. Producers located in counties that receive a primary or contiguous disaster designation are eligible for low-interest emergency loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. Compensation also is available to producers who purchased coverage through the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, which protects non-insurable crops against natural disasters that result in lower yields, crop losses or prevented planting. USDA encourages farmers and ranchers to contact their local FSA office to learn what documents can help the local office expedite assistance, such as farm records, receipts and pictures of damages or losses.

Producers with coverage through the federal crop insurance program administered by the Risk Management Agency should contact their crop insurance agent. Those who purchased crop insurance will be paid for covered losses. Producers should report crop damage within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days.

Community Recovery Resources
For declared natural disasters that lead to imminent threats to life and property, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can assist local government sponsors with the cost of implementing recovery efforts like debris removal and streambank stabilization to address natural resource concerns and hazards through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. NRCS had made available nearly $2 million in advance funding under the Emergency Watershed Protection program to help local communities immediately begin relieving imminent hazards to life and property caused by floods and is coordinating with state partners to complete damage assessments in preparation for sponsor assistance requests. NRCS also can help producers with damaged agricultural lands caused by natural disasters, such as floods.

The NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides financial assistance to repair and prevent excessive soil erosion that can result from high rainfall events and flooding. Conservation practices supported through EQIP protect the land and aid in recovery, can build the natural resource base, and might help mitigate loss in future events.

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture provides support for disaster education through the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN). EDEN is a collaborative multi-state effort with land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension Services across the country, using research-based education and resources to improve the delivery of services to citizens affected by disasters. EDEN’s goal is to improve the nation’s ability to mitigate, prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters. EDEN equips county-based Extension educators to share research-based resources in local disaster management and recovery efforts. The EDEN website offers a searchable database of Extension professionals, resources, member universities and disaster agency websites, education materials to help people deal with a wide range of hazards, and food and agricultural defense educational resources.

Many of USDA Rural Development programs can help provide financial relief to rural communities hit by natural disasters by offering low-interest loans to rural community facilities, rural businesses and cooperatives and to rural utilities. More information can be found on the Rural Development website, located at

For complete details and eligibility requirements regarding USDA’s disaster assistance programs, contact a local USDA Service Center. More information about USDA disaster assistance, as well as other disaster resources, is available on the USDA Disaster Resource Center website, located at