Wet conditions lead to more diseases, insect problems in Southeast hay fields

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The much wetter than normal 2013 growing season resulted in fewer Southeastern Hay Contest entries this year. But the quality remained high in the samples that were submitted. Auburn University’s Jennifer Johnson discussed this year’s contest in an interview at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Ga.

Dr. Johnson said the number of contest entries was down about 30 percent, primarily due to the adverse weather conditions growers experienced throughout much of the summer. The quality of the samples submitted was generally good. But forage producersin the region experienced problems with diseases, including leaf rust and leaf spot, and a relatively new insect, the bermudagrass stem maggot.

For now, there isn't much farmers can do to control the diseases or the bermudagrass stem maggot, which she says is playing havoc with hay fields across the Southeast. "Growers mainly need to get the forage out of the field so that it won't lie there and spread to other fields," he said. "Once the forage is removed, growers can come back in with pyrethroid treatments and try to knock the insect down. It may require two treatments."

Southeast forage specialists are hopeful 2014 will bring a better growing season for the Southeast hay industry. "The rain was good in some respects. Grazers had plenty of forage this summer," said Johnson. "But too much rain is not always a good thing."

Dr. Johnson said these and other topics will be covered at the Alabama Forage and Grassland Conference 2013, which will be held at Gunthersville State Park in Gunthersville, Ala., Dec. 12. Leading off the conference will be presentations on Forages of the Past, Present and Future, featuring Dr. Don Ball, Auburn University forage researcher; Dr. Dennis Hancock, Extension forage specialist, University of Georgia; and Dr. Johnson. For more information, go to Alabamaforages.com

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