UGA specialist on threat to bermudagrass
By Nick Nunn
Monday night, the Cattlemen’s Association of Morgan County had a meeting at Bonner’s Restaurant in Buckhead. At the meeting they held the Piedmont Quality Hay Contest and had a lecture by guest speaker, Dr. Dennis Hancock, Extension Forage Specialist at the Crop and Soil Sciences at UGA.
Ed Prior, president of Morgan County’s chapter called to order his last meeting in office – Mike Ivy was elected to be the new member during the course of the meeting – and began the meeting by discussing a membership drive that the Cattlemen’s association is currently holding.
Between Dec. 1 and March 31, members of the Cattlemen’s Association will be selling $5 raffle tickets for the chance to win a $1000 prize. Depending on the amount of new members created in each individual chapter because of the raffle, the chapters will be allowed to keep a portion of the money raised by selling the tickets.
Prior’s goal for the membership drive is 10 new members in the next four months.
Godfrey’s Feed and Southern States, the sponsors for the meeting, spoke briefly about new restrictions on tax-exempt status for farmers, which require those interested to register with the state’s Department of Agriculture before Jan 1 of next year.
In the Piedmont Quality Hay Contest, local farmers Jimbo Crumley and Charles Crumley took the first place awards in the Bermuda and Legume categories, respectively. Dave Garwood of Jasper County won first in the Mixed Grass category.
The title of Dr. Hancock’s lecture was “Bermudagrass Stand Decline and Emerging Pest Problems.”
During the course of the lecture, Hancock recommended using a combination of nitrogen and potash to produce thick stands of bermudagrass.
Without the use of potash, warned Hancock, fields will have poor stress tolerance, allow leafspot diseases and crabgrass to take over, and, in general, not be able to be competitive.
Hancock recommends scheduled burnings as a solution to these problems but reminded attendees that Georgia is often under burn bans and that the process can be risky if not properly controlled.
There is an emerging threat to bermudagrass, which Hancock and his team at UGA have been studying recently: bermudagrass stem maggots.
These maggots are laid by flies in the leaves of the bermudagrass, where they mature and eventually hatch, leaving the grass looking as if it had undergone a frost.
There is little known about the species that is affecting the bermudagrass populations, but, for the time being, Hancock recommends a strategy of spraying a field five to seven days after it is cut and then again one to two weeks after the first spraying as a way of reducing the pests’ population level.
Although this could be an expensive process, some farmers in south Georgia have experienced 50-60 percent yield losses on their crop as a result of this insect.
Hancock says that the short distance shouldn’t lull farmers here into complacency.
“It is coming this way,” said Hancock.
Although it is known that the insect originated in southeast Asia and came into this country from California, research about the pest and possible ways to eliminate it has not been thoroughly conducted before now.
For more information on the bermudagrass stem maggot and Hancock’s research on the topic, go to www.georgiaforages.com
Printed in the November 29, 2012 edition.