Number of moths trapped per day is increasing. Numbers are higher in areas where crop diversity is higher. I haven't seen any worms yet, but they are expected by the end of the month. At this point, moths may be mating and laying eggs on weeds and other plants in the area, including rice. This week I received a picture from a PCA of what seemed to be armyworm eggs laid in a rice seedling. No worms are expected on rice until late June or early July. In 2016, worms were observed in fields only after catches were around 20 monts/trap/day.
I have set up seven armyworm pheromone traps in the Sacramento Valley, and Michele Leinfelder-Miles is monitoring one trap in the Delta. Last year the traps showed a distinctive peak mid August, when worms started causing problems during heading. This year, we will start monitoring earlier and so we will try to identify the peak that corresponds to when worms start feeding on foliage in late June - early July.
I will publish the results of the monitoring weekly or biweekly on the UC Rice On-line website and I will sound the alarm when monitoring efforts need to be increased to make sure infestations don't go unnoticed.
This year, armyworm infestations were not as severe as last year. Populations did not reach the very high numbers of 2015, but they were early. Growers and PCAs were scouting diligently, and were able to recognize infestations when the worms were small. This gave growers the upper hand and many were ready to make a treatment decision if necessary. Intrepid was used in some fields successfully.
We are not totally off the hook yet. We usually get a second peak of armyworm activity during the late boot and heading stages. UCCE is monitoring moth populations in several areas of the valley using pheromone traps. The traps were set up in early July, and the trapping numbers will be shared in this blog and the UC Rice On-line website.
So far, moth numbers are low, averaging 2.5 moths/trap/day during the week of July 11. Numbers have decreased since the previous week, when the average was 4.3 moths/trap/day. The location with the highest moth numbers is near Knights Landing, averaging 9.2 moths/trap/day. Previous work done by Larry Godfrey, UC Davis Extension Entomologist, found that peaks of 20-40 moths/trap/day might indicate an armyworm larvae peak 7 to 10 days later.
Number of moths/trap/day captured in armyworm pheromone traps across the Sacramento Valley
Earlier this week, I received reports of two fields near Willows that showed evidence of armyworm feeding and very small worms in the plants. Today, I sampled a field that had some severe armyworm affected areas last year. At first sight, there was no evidence of injury. However, when looking closely, some of the bottom leaves in the plants showed evidence of armyworm feeding.
This is a 40-day old field, drained for propanil. When I shook the injured plants a bit, a small worm fell to the ground half the time. The worms were hard to notice; they were small, and their color ranged from yellow to dark green. Most of the injured plants and all the worms I found were in the corners of the field and next to levees, where the plants showed symptoms of N deficiency because the aqua rig couldn't reach.
The larvae I found ranged from first to early third instar. It is the fifth and sixth instars that will cause yield reductions (look at the red line in the graph below). It should take between 127 and 268 degree days (above 50 and below 84.2 oF) for the larvae in the field I sampled to reach the fifth instar. Using average temperatures for the past 10 years, I calculated that we should be seeing fifth instar larvae between June 15 and June 21. Those dates are really close to the dates when we saw the armyworms causing problems last year.
For information on thresholds, see the UC IPM website.
It is difficult to accurately estimate yield losses due to armyworm damage. Early infestations that injure only foliage can reduce tillering, delay the crop, and cause uneven maturity. Infestations during heading and grain filling injure the panicle, causing blanks and broken panicle branches.
If defoliation was severe, try to estimate the percentage defoliation and what proportion of the field was affected. Many of the affected fields I saw had small areas where defoliation was almost complete, and some areas where defoliation was small. For example, such a field would have 80% defoliation on 90% of the area of the field, and 10% defoliation on the remaining 10% of the area of the field.
For panicle injury, observe the panicles before harvest. Broken branches are relatively easy to spot (see picture below). Grab 10 to 20 panicles and count how many have broken branches. Repeat this in three or four areas of the field, and then transform it to % injured panicles. If more than 10% of the panicles were injured, the action threshold was exceeded and there may be a yield reduction. The higher the % injured panicles, the higher the yield reduction. Research has shown that for every 1% increase in injured panicles, there may be a 0.07% reduction in yield. So, in a field with 10% injured panicles, yield could be lowered by 0.7%.
It's important to keep these estimates, together with any records of insecticide applications and yield, so that if we are in a similar situation next year, the industry can justify a section 18 for the insecticide Intrepid again.