Mid-South grain sorghum faces messy new pest

From Delta Farm Press

White sugarcane aphids are on the move in Mid-South grain sorghum and are making a sticky mess in some fields, according to Extension entomologists.

The aphid (Melanaphis sacchari) has been found this season in Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Arkansas.

LSU AgCenter entomologist David Kerns said aphids have been a sugarcane pest in Louisiana since 1999, but in 2013 moved to grain sorghum for the first time. The 2013 infestation occurred late in the season and only caused harvest efficiency problems. The aphids produce a sticky honeydew that can clog harvesters.

This year, the pest arrived earlier and in higher numbers, according to Kerns. “We’re seeing more acres affected. These aphids are being found throughout the whole state now.”

Kerns says the infestations, which began in the southern part of the state and moved north, can be fairly severe and cause yield loss. “You’ll see desiccation of the heavily infested leaves. We’re seeing thousands and thousands of aphids per leaf. If you walk in and out of an infested field, your pants are just covered with aphids.”

For the most part, producers are keeping the aphids under control, according to Kerns. “But it doesn’t take long for them to build up. You have to watch them closely. I’ve been in fields with a heavy infestation here or there, but within five days the field is inundated.”

Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas have been granted emergency Section 18 registrations for the use of Transform on white sugarcane aphids. Kerns said Transform provides 90 percent control, which is much better than other insecticides that have only 50 percent to 60 percent control. One application of Transform is usually enough for the entire season, he said.

Kerns is seeing some reduction in control when Transform is tank-mixed with a pyrethroid for midge control.

“When the pest was confined to the south, most of the applications of Transform were going out at boot. However, as the pest has moved north, the applications are going out as sorghum is blooming.

“A lot of farmers have been piggybacking their Transform application with a pyrethroid to pick up any midge out there. We don’t know exactly what the problem is, but where we see Transform mixed with a pyrethroid, we are seeing our performance drop off. So now we are recommending that producers not mix Transform with a pyrethroid.”

When midge are present, Kerns advises adding Lorsban or generic to Transform. “It’s not as good as a pyrethroid, so if you have a really heavy midge infestation, you’ll want to follow up in another three or four days with another application of Lorsban.”

Read the rest of the story, with photos, on Delta Farm Press.

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