Rain increases worm odds

By Emily Crowe



Many farmers in eastern New Mexico and west Texas are pleased with recent rains amid persistent drought.

However, other threats to their farms are looming, including a potential outbreak of cutworms and Verticillium wilt.

Jane Pierce, entomologist at the New Mexico State University Agricultural Science Center in Artesia, said she is getting an average of 10 variegated cutworms per night in pheromone traps at the center’s farm and commercial fields.

According to the NMSU extension service, cutworms emerge at night to feed on developing and full-grown plants.

Pierce said recent cool, wet weather might cause higher than usual survival of cutworms that are destructive to alfalfa.

Curry County Extension Office Ag Agent Luther Dunlap said he hasn’t seen any cutworms in his travels around the county, but the possibility is still there.

“There is a potential for it just due to the weather conditions we’ve had,” Dunlap said. “In the past years, the hotter temperatures kept the hatch rate on the cutworms and army worms really low to where we didn’t see as many.”

“The majority of this summer has been pretty mild, so we could see an increase in the hatch rate,” he said. “I’ve visited with some producers around the county. They really haven’t seen anything.”

Dunlap said the only other side effect of the wet, mild summer has been an increase in weeds, though it’s nothing to complain about since the rainfall was desperately needed.

Benji Henderson, extension agent for Parmer County, said that while he has not yet seen cutworms near Farwell, the summer’s wet and relatively cool weather could bring a specific type of disease to the cotton crop.

“The potential is there for Verticillium wilt,” he said. “With the cool coming through and it being wet in July, that’s when it tends to hit us here.”

Verticillium wilt is a disease caused by a fungus that infects through the roots of a cotton plant, invades the vascular system and results in infection of the plant.

Even with the threat of the disease, Henderson still believes the cotton crop will be on track for this year’s harvest.


— The Associated Press contributed to this story.