WEATHER WATCH
Fall armyworms marching through Indiana fields, decimating crops
WSBT 22 photo{ }

Driving around you can see this year's crops look in good shape, but what you can't see is a new pest is devastating some Indiana farm fields.

Farmers in Culver said it took less than two days for the fall armyworms to march across this field and eat most of the leaves on the hay and alfalfa plants. The fall armyworm came to the state from the south due to high winds that brought moths to the area.

While the farmer has sprayed it with pesticides, it’s only killed about half of the worms which rendered this crop useless in the harvest.

Just last week, Vince Hoffman, a Marshall County farmer, was walking through fields thinking about how great this year's crop was shaping up to be. But within 48 hours.

“The entire crop is gone, you can’t recoup it, we will have to adjust and buy some hay just to compensate and get through the year,” said Hoffman.

The culprit is fall armyworms.

“They defoliate, they start with the most tender tissue and they eat as much as they can as fast as they can and they just march right across the field like their name says,” Dan Schaller, agronomist and certified crop advisor, said.

Turning Hoffman's nutrient-rich alfalfa plants and footlong blades of hay into a field of barren stems.

“No leaves means poor quality feed, and no money,” he said.

The worms were blown into our area via winds that came from recent storms down in the southern United States.

The moths can travel 500 miles in the air and once they landed in the fields, they reproduced and wreaked havoc.

“Decreasing the volume in the tonnage of the crops might drive prices up, maybe local hair prices might be higher,” said Schaller.

A crop advisor says usually they can control insects with pesticides, but they haven't been as effective as usual on these worms.

At the end of the season there are less supplies and it's a challenge since these were unexpected bugs that farmers aren't used to treating every year.

“This isn’t really something that you can prevent with crop rotation, because the timing of the moth flame is something that is unpredictable based on the heat cycle,” said Schaller.

They've only hit certain parts of Hoffman's farm.  He said his corn should be OK.

Now he's wishing for more rain, so some of the plants will regrow before it gets too late for a harvest.

“You don’t feel good about it and it’s something that happens,” said Hoffman.

Farmers hope they won't be back for at least another decade. But if winters keep getting warmer, it could be sooner than that.

The worms will soon burrow in the ground and start turning into moths, which is a two-week process.

Farmers are hoping by then it will be too cold for the worms and they’ll migrate back south.

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