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More armyworms

Further reports of armyworms have emerged since we reported on these pests in the last issue of PestFacts. District agronomist, Rebecca Byrne (I&I NSW), says caterpillars of various sizes have been observed around Moree, in the North West Slopes and Plains district of New South Wales. With barley crops now approaching maturity, Rebecca says they will be keeping a close eye on armyworm numbers as well as the size of caterpillars present. It is likely that crops will be sprayed in instances where large caterpillars are found and damage potential is relatively high.

Industry development manager, Trevor Bray (Pulse Australia), also reports finding armyworms in a wheat crop north of Griffith, in the Riverina district of New South Wales. The caterpillars found were approximately 20 mm in length and causing some feeding damage to leaves. At present, the level of damage is not a concern. Large armyworm caterpillars are quite easy to identify in the field. They have three parallel white or cream coloured stripes running from the ‘collar’ behind the head, along the body to the tail end.

Armyworms (Family: Noctuidae) are potentially quite damaging when crops are approaching harvest. This is because they climb up plants and chew through the last remaining green part of the plant stems (just below the head), causing the heads to fall. Ripening barley is most susceptible to armyworm damage. At this time even relatively low numbers of caterpillars can cause yield losses. Oats are also damaged but the less compact seed head usually means less damage. 

Click here for images of armyworms and refer to PestFacts Issue No. 6 for further information.

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