It’s time to watch the crop bugs
weather: amazing! All the people I watch and listen to predict nice weather in May. The temperatures have returned to normal, with some rain too, but nothing like the eight straight days we had from April 26th to May 3rd.
With nice weather, the main value of checking the growing study days at the MSU Enviroweather Station at Applewood Orchards in Deerfield is predicting insect development. Although there is still a chance of frost, no one expects it, so some people plant warm season crops.
pasture It is often overlooked and therefore not managed properly. Should soil samples be taken on rotating or permanent pastures? Should it be managed from weeds? The answer to both questions is, of course, yes, pastures are a crop for livestock and therefore need to be properly managed. Animals will not do well if there is little growth of desired plant species, they don’t particularly like weeds, and some weeds are harmful. The procedure for drawing soil samples is the same regardless of crop, obtaining representative sample(s) from the field. Pasture lawns need a nitrogen fertilizer similar to grass or other grasses, such as corn or wheat, and may need lime, phosphorous, or potassium.
Deer pasture It requires management, soil testing, etc., like pastures for other animal species. People have told me many times that they think they have a problem with micronutrients in their deer parcels up north, but it is usually a problem of overgrazing. Last year, deer were feasting on my soybean leaves and apples here in Monroe County, and we had deer tracks leading to our bird feeder this winter. Deer, blackbirds, and starlings are pesky predators here that are hard to manage.
wheat It grows rapidly in and through the all-important Feekes 6 growth stage, when it begins to elongate. Now any aerosols require extra attention and management. There should be a second nitrogen decorating application, but it’s too early to think about head scab. Remember to use the MSU Diagnostic Clinic to identify or diagnose any insect, weed or disease.
insects Corn larvae of corn and soybeans and the alfalfa weevil are two insect pests to watch for. Seed larvae are most likely to be a problem in fields where cover crops or other green plants have been milled or manure applied just before planting. Seed treatments with insecticides usually provide good protection, unless the crops are grown in cool, moist soil and are slow-germinating.
Alfalfa mites will now start feeding, but farmers may want to consider an early harvest of hay instead of spraying. Bean leaf beetles overwinter and feed on crops such as alfalfa and alfalfa before moving to their preferred host of soybeans. We can usually expect three generations a year, starting in winter, then two more until fall. Normally, winter generation doesn’t cause economic damage, and given the winter and spring weather, I’m inclined to think that will be true this year as well. Remember, MSU and OSU have collaborated on a new Field Crop Insect Management Handbook, which can be downloaded just by searching on Google “MSU Handbook of Insects.”
mother’s Day It means that tomatoes, flowers and other vegetables will be grown. Great “May crops” include asparagus, spinach, and rhubarb. Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables grown. There’s nothing quite like picking fresh produce from the garden, and tomatoes are one of those crops that seem to taste best when picked ripe and fresh.
Planting multiple varieties and at multiple intervals will help ensure a good, continuous crop even when deer, disease, or damaging tomato worms are present. Tomatoes can be sown directly down to their lowest leaves, in well-drained soil, which gets at least six hours of sunlight per day. They are usually recommended for staking or cages, and pruning is easy to do to keep them within their space. Untreated grass clippings or black and white sheets of newspaper are both good mulching options to keep weeds at bay and conserve soil moisture.
Ned Berkey is an educator emeritus at Michigan State University at MSU Extension and a regular contributor to The Monroe News.