Fire ants continue to be a problem for Alabama hemp producers. It started early in the season and has not let up with more young plants being put in the ground at the end of July.
“We have a real staggered kind of planting date going on because hemp’s a new crop and everyone’s getting their land prepped and seeds approved. There were still fields going in as late as a couple of weeks ago at the end of July,” said Katelyn Kesheimer, Alabama Extension entomologist. “The plants are especially susceptible when they’re really young, short seedlings. With all of the rain we’ve had, there’s been a lot of mating flights of fire ants. You look the morning after a rain, there’s brand new mounds everywhere. That was our first major pest in hemp earlier in the season and it’s continued through.”
So how can farmers avoid a similar fate next season? Kesheimer implores farmers to act this fall.
“If you plan on growing hemp next year, I would highly recommend you take care of your fire ant problem by putting out a bait this fall and maybe again in the spring before you plant. (Otherwise) by the time your plants are in the ground and if you have fire ants nearby, they will find it and you will most likely lose substantial yield to them,” Kesheimer said.
Kesheimer recommends that growers apply bait in October when the weather has cooled and then in April or May.
“I think a lot of people got caught off guard with how bad the ants are. I’ve been getting calls from all different states across the Southeast that have fire ants issues,” Kesheimer said. “With fire ants, I just think they never really stopped. We’ve had some rains and these big mating swarms. They’ll just move around and around so there’s more plants that they’re destroying.”