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Army worms. Photo: <a href="">AgriLife Today</a>. cc, <a href="">some rights reserved</a>
Army worms. Photo: AgriLife Today. cc, some rights reserved

Second army worms outbreak threatens hay crops; late blight worries vegetable growers

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A second generation of army worms is threatening hay crops in the region, after an initial invasion in June destroyed some farmers' grains. Late blight is another threat to farmers this year.

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Army worms, actually caterpillars that turn into moths, come to the North Country every year, but they are usually accompanied by a host of diseases and parasites that control their numbers. Those pests didn't catch up with them fast enough this year, causing the first outbreak. Now, a second cycle of the worms began feeding on hay crops starting about 10 days ago, according to Mike Hunter, an agronomist for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County.

Hunter said some farmers in southern Jefferson County have had to spray insecticides to kill the catepillars. He said the key to rescuing hay crops is to get out in the field and identify the problem before the worms reach their biggest, hungriest stage.

Late blight is also a threat to farmers this summer. The disease affects tomato and potato plants, and cases have been confirmed north of Plattsburgh, in Clinton County, and in Syracuse. Extension’s Sue Gwise says spores are probably throughout the north country now.

Infected plants will start to show black lesions. If left untreated, they'll die within the week. Gwise said potoato and tomato growers should start spraying now to protect their plants, because once the disease hits, the plants can’t be saved. She said plants with late blight should be destroyed immediately.

Other diseases sometimes look like late blight, so growers can bring their plants to their local extension office to have them diagnosed.

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