Monthly Archives: November 2015

Kissing Bugs & Chagas Disease

There was some attention on social media during Thanksgiving about kissing bugs. We walked outside and my mother-in-law found a leaf-footed bug on a sunflower. Since they were my in-laws, I said, “Yes, that’s one of those kissing bugs. They’ve invaded the county. The only thing you can do to avoid them is to move away.” (No, just kidding…. I didn’t say that, but she did find some leaf-footed bugs which are related to stink bugs.) UGA Extension Entomologist Dr. Nancy Hinkle has this information about these bugs and Chagas disease:

Kissing bugs have been in Georgia for millions of years. They, and their relatives such as leaf-footed bugs and wheel bugs, are common. Kissing bugs are not deadly and most of them are not infected with the parasite that causes Chagas disease.

The Chagas disease parasite is transmitted only by the feces of specific kissing bugs. In other words, being bitten by the bug will not harm you but rubbing the bug’s excrement in your eyes might make you sick.

Wheel Bug

Wheel Bug – Photo by Dr. Nancy Hinkle

While Chagas disease is not uncommon in Central and South America, only 23 cases acquired here in the U.S. have been reported in the last 60 years. Areas of Texas just north of Mexico have lots of infected kissing bugs, and that’s why Texas is in the news.

For us here in the Southeast, the risk is not being bitten by a kissing bug (very little chance of that). The riskier behavior would be cleaning up raccoon, opossum, skunk or armadillo nests; that’s where the bugs live and where kissing bug feces are most concentrated. The animals are not the risk, nor is the bite of the bug; we can get infected with Chagas disease only by getting the bug’s feces inside us – through a break in the skin, through swallowing, through inhalation, or through rubbing our eyes. Again, not much risk if we stay away from the nests of wild animals.

Not every potential reservoir is infected. Here in the Southeast very few of the bugs carry the parasite. In the U.S. we are more likely to die in an automobile accident than to ever in our whole lives get infected with Chagas disease.

What can you do? Keep bugs out of your home by turning off porch lights at night to avoid attracting the bugs. Seal around doors and windows with weather-stripping and replace door sweeps; if cold air cannot get in, neither can kissing bugs. And, of course, freezing cold nights are sending kissing bugs into hibernation, so the risk is even lower this time of year.

Give thanks for your cozy home that protects you from kissing bugs.

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Winter Forage Fertilization

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Our forage crops look much better now than they did this time last season. October was dry just like last season, but some soil had enough moisture to get a stand though mid October. Last year, frosts and rain hurt us. We checked some oats for aphids and found none this week. Aphids were also a big issue this time last year.

We are talking about fertility programs in our forage crops compared to our grain crops this week. When we plant wheat for grain, we go out with our recommended N based on previous crop at planting. We then check the stand in January to see how tillering is doing. If we have enough tillers, we hold off and put out the rest of our nitrogen at one time. If tillers are low, we split nitrogen to encourage tillering.

The difference in our forage crop UGA Extension Forage Scientist Dr. Dennis Hancock says that we only intend to increase our vegetative growth. With grain, we want to count tillers and fine tune our nitrogen. “With forage we want apply 40 – 50 lbs of N per acre at planting or soon after the plants emerge to increase growth, tillering (thickening of the stand), and provide earlier grazing. A second application of 40 – 50 lbs of N per acre should be applied in mid-winter to increase winter and spring forage production. Because ryegrass is longer-lived, a third application of 40 – 50 lbs of N per acre may be needed in early spring when ryegrass is used for late spring grazing, hay, or silage crop. Rates of N in excess of these amounts may result in substantial N losses to leaching and excessive growth during the winter. Fresh, tender growth that occurs when nitrogen is in excess could be damaged by extremely cold weather.” More information on fertilization can be found on the Georgia Forages website.

As weather turns colder, there are some issues we will have in our grazing crops. Most fields this year are oats, rye, ryegrass or a blend. Oats are more susceptible to cold injury than other small grains. With cold injury, we will see purpling of the foliage. The purpling is the result from accumulation of anthocyanins after temperature drops. We do not expect permanent damage, as the growing point is below ground during the tillering stage until jointing.

Purpling due to cold injury in oats

Purpling due to cold injury in oats

This reddish/purple color can also indicate barley yellow dwarf virus. These symptoms start from the tip of the leaf blade. The virus is vectored by aphids which are observed on the foliage. Most fields will have some level of BYDV each season. We are not seeing aphids now, so this is less of a concern.

Another cause of purpling is due to phosphorus deficiency. P is not soil mobile and is taken up by root ‘interception meaning’ the roots must grow to it. Cold can decrease root growth and this becomes evident. Nitrogen and potassium on the other hand are soil mobile. They can leach down into soil profile with rain. This time last season, rain was leaching N out of the soil. N is also mobile inside the plant, so older or lower leaves will show deficiency first.

Nitrogen deficiency in wheat

Nitrogen deficiency in wheat

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Filed under Fertility, Forages

Minimize Risks From Moldy Hay

UGA Extension Forage Scientist Dr. Dennis Hancock has new information on moldy hay issues:

Because of the wet fall, many producers have faced extremely difficult field curing conditions for their hay. Additionally, hay that was bone dry in the field has, in many cases, developed mold problems in the barn. This later issue has been problematic for us in 2015, resulting in a large number of square and round bales covered with black sooty mold. It is arguably more problematic because this is often a barn design issue (e.g., open sides, poor air drainage, lack of ventilation, inability to close off ventilation, etc.). Under the high levels of humidity that we’ve had (because of periods of nearly continuous rain and cool weather) the last 2 months, dry hay will draw moisture from the moist air. For example, hay that is 12-15% moisture (the appropriate moisture for hay storage) may have a 6-12” layer along any exposed surface that may equilibrate at about 30%+ moisture if the surrounding environment is cool (< 70 F) and moist (relative humidity stays > 60%). Any moisture level greater than 20% on the surface could result in significant mold growth/discoloration, and levels greater than 30% moisture can result in the entire stack’s exposed surface being covered in black sooty mold.


As a result, our County Extension Agents and I have had an extraordinary number of emails and calls about feeding moldy hay, especially to horses. First, let me clearly state: moldy or dusty hay should NOT be fed to horses. Moldy and dusty hay can lead to respiratory issues in the horse, and can also pose health risks to the men and women who feed the hay to the livestock (e.g., farmer’s lung, etc.). Here’s a link to an excellent Extension article on the subject. Soaking the hay in a water trough before feeding will reduce the “dust” (which is usually mostly mold), but it will also leach out soluble sugars and lower forage quality. This may not reduce the risk of mycotoxins (and yes, hay can have mycotoxins in it just like moldy grain, peanuts, or oilseeds can have in them). For a discussion of mycotoxins, see this article I wrote on the subject. Several companies now sell hay “steamers,” which is a chamber or box wherein hay bales are placed and steam is pumped into the chamber. In addition to the expense, the downside of these steamers is that they will lower the forage nutritive value of the hay and they are unlikely to change the mycotoxin levels appreciably.

Ruminant animals aren’t as sensitive to mold problems as horses, but they still can be negatively impacted if care is not taken to prevent health challenges. Feeding slightly to moderately moldy hay (mold spore counts up to 1 million cfu/gram) is relatively safe if feeding cattle or small ruminants, as long as the animals are fed outside or in a very well-ventilated feeding area. Keep in mind that palatability is likely to be a challenge. Hay that emits a substantial cloud of “dust” or continues to emit dust after the disturbance ceases should be assumed to be > 1 million cfu/gram. A test can confirm mold levels. Hay that is obviously moldy (moldy or “mousey” smell or sending off visible “dust” or mold spores when disturbed) should be tested for mycotoxins before being fed. UGA’s Feed and Environmental Water Laboratory is not equipped to conduct the mold spore count test or the mycotoxin screen. (I contacted Waters Agricultural Labs in Camilla, GA and they are set up for this test.) You can, however, work through the UGA lab to arrange for these tests to occur. Alternatively, you can submit samples directly to labs that do conduct these tests (e.g, Cumberland Valley Analytical ServicesDairy One).

Bales that are covered with black sooty mold on the exterior can be removed and discarded, and usually the interior bales are not affected. Bale stack design can help minimize the surface area exposed and, thereby, minimize the damage. Barn design issues can also be corrected to prevent this problem in the future. Barns that can be open to allow moisture to escape during the initial 2-4 weeks of storage and then shut during prolonged periods of high humidity and cool temperatures will offer flexibility in this regard.

For more information on forage management issues, visit our website at

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Filed under Forages, Pasture

Calculating Winter Forage Needs

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We’re moving toward our winter season now as cattlemen have been testing forage for quality and supplemental needs. At this time, we can still make changes if needed. Here is a good article written by Effingham Ag Agent, Sam Ingram, on winter forage needs:

“It was my understanding that there would be no MATH!”

To begin the process of calculating the hay inventory needed for the winter, a producer does not need to do math! The first step is simple, send a forage sample in to a certified lab to determine the forage quality. The cost of this analysis is minimal and the lab does the math for you. The quality of the forage will determine the amount needed during the winter feeding period.

Once the producer receives and understands the forage quality analysis, they then can determine how much hay they will need to supplement. A simple example below shows how a producer can determine their hay needs:

A producer has 50 mature brood cows at 1,200 lbs., 2 bulls at 2,000 lbs and 10 weaned replacement heifers at 500 lbs. If we assume these animals must consume 2.5% of their bodyweight per day, we can say that:
Brood Cows will require 1500 lbs./day (= 1200 lbs X 2.5 lbs of DM/100lb of b.w. X 50 brood cows)
Bulls will require 100 lbs./day (= 2000 lbs X 2.5 lbs of DM/100lb of b.w. X 2 Bulls)
Yearling Heifers will require 125 lbs./day (= 500 lbs X 2.5 lbs of DM/100lb of b.w. X 10 Heifers)
So, daily hay required would be 1725 lbs. of dry hay (that is at 0% moisture or on a dry matter basis).

The calculation of 1725 lbs. of forage is on a dry matter basis. This means that if we bale the hay or receive hay at 85% Dry Matter (DM), 15 % is water and we do not account for that during feeding. So, a 1,000 lb. bale at 85% DM, would be 850 lbs. on a dry matter basis.

To continue on the calculation we need to estimate our feeding period. For this example we will say a producer needs to feed 120 days. So, if we multiply this number by our daily requirement we get an estimation of 120 days X 1725 lbs. = 207,000 lbs. of DM. If we assume the producer has 85% DM hay, then the as fed total would be approximately 244,000 lbs.

To account for storage loss and feeding loss (assuming barn stored and fed with a hay ring), we can conservatively add another 15% to the “as fed” total and get a total of 280,600 lbs. In this situation, for this moderate size herd, we need roughly 280 – 1,000 lb. round rolls of hay.

Now, depending on where the producer’s brood cows are in their calving season during the winter feeding period will determine if further supplementation is needed. A great option to decrease the need for stored forage or hay is to grow some high quality winter annual grasses. A cow is much more cost-effective at harvesting forages than we are with machinery and these annual grasses can save time producing and feeding hay.

In the end, producers need to think about their current hay inventory and start calculating for this coming winter. With current grain prices, a concentrate supplement may work to stretch hay more cost-effectively. Either way, a producer needs to plan their winter feeding program to avoid overpaying for any forage or supplement when supplies get tight.

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EPA Orders Cancellation Of Sulfoxaflor (Transform)

By Angus Catchot, Extension Entomologist, Jeff Gore, Research and Extension Entomologist and Don Cook, Research Entomologist November 13, 2015

– See more at:

By now many of you may have heard that Sulfoxaflor, the active ingredient in Transform, recently lost a major court decision in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The suit was led by the Pollinator Stewardship Council, beekeepers, and other bee advocacy groups. To sum up the decision, the courts ruled that the EPA did not have substantial evidence that the products effects on bees had been studied sufficiently prior to registration.

What does this mean for the (growers)?

Cotton: Over the last several years Transform has proven to be a highly efficacious product against the Tarnished Plant Bug and Cotton Aphid. It has essentially replaced 1-3 dicrotophos and acephate sprays for plant bugs in the MS Delta region.

Grain Sorghum: Transform is essentially 1 of the 2 (Sivanto) only available options to control Sugarcane Aphids in grain sorghum (a new devastating pest of grain sorghum). This will increase the likelihood of resistance to Sivanto substantially in the coming year.

At this time it is not clear what choices growers will have for 2016 but this decision no doubt will affect our overall IPM program for next year. As growers have begun to find out about the cancelation of Sulfoxaflor, many growers have expressed concern and frustration. As we learn more we will share.

From the EPA:

Sulfoxaflor – Final Cancellation Order

On November 12, 2015, EPA issued a cancellation order for all previously registered Sulfoxaflor products. Pursuant to EPA’s cancellation order, and beginning November 12, 2015, distribution or sale by the registrant of cancelled sulfoxaflor products is prohibited, unless such distribution or sale is for the purpose of disposal or export. Also, stocks of cancelled products held by persons other than the registrant may not be commercially distributed in the United States, but instead may be distributed only to facilitate return to the manufacturer or for proper disposal or lawful export. Use of existing stocks by end users is permitted provided such use is consistent in all respects with the previously-approved labeling for the product.

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Filed under Entomology, Grain Sorghum

Aphids in Grazing

Seminole Agent Rome Ethredge and Decatur Agent Kyle Brown started seeing aphids this week. Brooks County Agents Stephanie Hollifiend and Ben Shirley just reported aphids as well. BYD was an issue last year, and we need to be aware of aphids.

Seminole Crop E News

We are seeing aphids in winter grazing. I saw an abundance of Bird cherry-oat aphids in a field of oats and a lower number in another field. The warm weather we have had has contributed to high aphid numbers. The bad thing about them is that they cause direct feeding damage and can transmit Barley yellow dwarf disease.  Symptoms in wheat vary from yellowing to reddening or purpling of the upper leaves beginning at the leaf tips and extending backward toward the base. Symptom color varies with the variety and may be similar to those caused by nutrient imbalances.IMG_9463IMG_9464

Here’s some Barley yellow dwarf on oats that Decatur county agent Kyle Brown and I found today in another field of oats being grown for grazing. . The reddening starts at the tips and is usually in the top of the plants and in spots. Aphids were present in this field…

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Pond Weeds – Water Hyacinth

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This is at Lake Cherokee in Thomasville where my wife and I and a friend were walking this past weekend. They have a nice track that is 1 mile long I used to walk when I lived at the apartments next door. We sometimes look at weeds they have working to control. Here is one I have not seen at the lake before but can become an issue.

Water Hyacinth

Water Hyacinth




Water hyacinth is a floating pond weed that can get about 3 feet tall. It is also perennial. It has a purple/violet flower that comes up on a terminal spike. The roots are very fibrous underneath and develop into a thick mat resulting in oxygen depletions.


Many aquatic compounds have been successful at treating hyacinth like 2,4-D, diquat, and glyphosate. However, it is late in the season to think about treating. UGA Extension Aquaculture Specialist Dr. Gary Burtle says the only treatment option this late is diquat. It would be okay to apply a spot treatment with a 2% solution of diquat to the foliage to burn back plants. Then come back in March with another treatment to kill new growth.

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Filed under Aquatic Environments

Pecan Harvest Update

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Pecan harvest is going strong now. Many groves are producing well right now. Earlier this year, we saw some Pawnee that did not open up where other varieties did. Recent reports are that Stuarts in certain groves did not open well, but other varieties are fine. Much of what is common now is that size is there but kernels are not filling out, affecting quality. This can happen for a few reasons, but one more particular this season. UGA Extension Pecan Horticulturalist Dr. Lenny Wells says when we have a good crop set – apart from other issues – the trees still have a hard time filling out. This is true for this season in addition to late season stress. We had some cloudy weather in late September combined with insect pressure that is adding to the issue. This late season stress is likely affecting later varieties as well. Still many good reports on yield from the field as harvest continues.

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Filed under Entomology, Pecans

Winter Grazing Coming Along

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Our winter forage crops are looking good so far on the east side of the county. This pasture is a blend of oats and rye. It was planted the first week of October. This is before it became very dry. It was after this that growers had to wait until next rainfall. So, there was a downtime of establishment. It’s tillering now and growing tall. The cows are soon to be brought over to graze. This field is ready to graze. UGA Extension Forage Agronomist Dr. Dennis Hancock talks about the “art” of grazing in not grazing too early:

In general, the earlier one starts grazing, the more damage will be done to the pasture’s growth potential. It is a function of the growth curve. In that early stage (lag phase), when growth is slow or just beginning to get going good, grazing can essentially stop growth or slow it to a crawl. It is like a bank account with some principal in it. The more principal one has, the more growth in the account one will get. The growth rate is like compounding interest. Grass grows grass. Take away principal (grass), and the amount of growth will decrease.

So, that’s enough professor talk… Practically speaking, one really shouldn’t start grazing until there is at least 1800-2500 lbs of DM/acre, though I would wait a little later on oats as they’ll slow growing in December (particularly if it becomes very cold). For rye, that would be about 5-6 inches. For ryegrass, I’d wait until it is at least 6 inches. For oats, I’d wait until it is about 6-8 inches. The ideal would be to only graze it a little… removing just what it’s average growth rate is and maintaining at least 1500-1800 lbs DM/acre. This is why I am a BIG fan of timed (limit) grazing.

Remember… don’t be too quick to graze. Grazing too early can cost one more in the long run.

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Pine Needles Shedding?

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Over the past month, we’ve been seeing different symptoms in loblolly and longleaf stands in the county. In some tree branches, we see inside needles turning brown and shedding where other trees, outside needles are turning yellow/brown. In either case, multiple issues can be associated with each symptom. What I want to show here is some longleaf needles where the inside is turning brown and shedding.

UGA Extension Forester Dr. David Moorhead says this is usually caused by a few different things. The symptoms can be associated with either a foliage disease like needle cast or an natural shedding of the older growth of needles. What we are seeing now is a natural shed. In a dry year, the tree will have one flush of growth in the season. With multiple wet years, the trees have put on more flushes of growth each year. This is resulting in a higher shedding this year. This is nothing we are concerned about. Basically, we have a higher component of older needles.

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Filed under Forestry