July 13, 2001
FREDERICTON (CNB) - About 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) of mostly grain and forage crops in New Brunswick are now affected by the army worm caterpillars, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture reported Friday.
Most areas of the province have reported the presence of the caterpillars, but the areas experiencing the heaviest infestations at this time are in southtern and western New Brunswick, from Sackville to Grand Falls, including Charlotte County.
It is believed the infestation is now past the peak period. By the end of next week, the worst should be over. A final determination of infestation levels and damage in the province will not be available before harvest time.
The department is advising farmers to monitor their crops frequently. Farmers who do experience problems with large populations should consult with crop development officers at the local office of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture to obtain advice on the best corrective action to be used for various crop situations.
Army worms are not new to New Brunswick, They are present every year, but in smaller numbers and more localized. Infestations are cyclical. The last recorded major infestations in New Brunswick date back to 1964 and 1975. Years following these infestations, crops rebounded back to normal levels.
After their feeding frenzy, army worms burrow three to five centimetres into the ground to develop into pupae. Normally, harsh winters, natural predators and parasites keep populations in check. However, this past winter, snow fell before the ground was fully frozen allowing a number of army worms to survive the winter and turn into egg-laying moths in the spring.
A large number of moths have also been blown into New Brunswick from the Southern United States. The problem was further compounded by a cold, wet spring - weather that is less effective in controlling army worm population levels.
The army worm feeds mainly on grasses and targets grain crops, such as oats, barley, wheat and rye. It will also feed on forage crops, as well as field and sweet corn.
More than 30,000 hectares (75,000 acres) of grain crops are grown in New Brunswick. There are also more than 68,000 hectares (170,000 acres) of alfalfa and other forage crops and 1,600 hectares (4,000 acres) of silage corn. The province's dairy and beef industries, worth $100 million, depend largely on these forage crops for livestock feed. It is estimated that the combined value of the grain and forage crops is in the $35 to $40-million range.
Damage is not as significant on the forage crops as many farmers were able to carry out a first cut before the infestations began.
From a crop insurance perspective, registered producers experiencing crop losses due to army worm infestations are being monitored closely by field staff to ensure they are aware that insect damage is covered under the department crop insurance policy.
Insured grain crops include barley, oats, wheat and mixed grains grown as feed or pedigreed seed. Although forage crops are not insured, farmers will be able to apply for assistance under the Canadian Farm Income Program or those eligible for the Net Income Stabilization Accounts can draw from their accounts if their overall net farm income declines.
MEDIA CONTACT: Alain Bryar, communications, Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture, (506) 457-6766.