Grain sorghum growers must watch for sugarcane aphid

In Delta Farm Press

It sounds like the plot of a cheesy 1950s sci-fi movie: Creatures that don’t need males to procreate. Females birth hundreds of live babies every 5 to 7 days, all of which are exact DNA clones.

Some of those can then mutate, or select for resistance to chemical weapons that control them, and their progeny will be resistant duplicates.

In a short time, there can be billions of creatures that can’t be stopped by the previously effective chemical weapons.

In a nutshell, says Angus Catchot, that’s the sugarcane aphid, a pest has spread like wildfire across southern states in just one year, decimating grain sorghum crops in its path.

There are photos from Texas, where the pest began its spread, of equipment so covered with aphids that it appears to be thick layers of dust.

In uncontrolled situations, grain sorghum yield loss can be total.

“In 2013, we started hearing reports out of the Texas Coastal Bend area and Louisiana about this pest,” Catchot, who is Mississippi State University Extension professor of entomology and plant pathology, said at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Agricultural Consultants Association. “Late that year, they were confirmed in one western Mississippi county.

“In 2014, they were in every Mississippi county that had grain sorghum. And I’m sure they were in a lot more counties on johnsongrass, which is also a host. In just one year, it had moved from Texas all the way to South Carolina. That’s how rapidly they spread.”

Anyone planning to grow grain sorghum this year “needs to be aware of what can happen with this pest and how it can affect their crop budget.”

The sugarcane aphid, first identified in Hawaii in 1896 and in the continental U.S. in Florida in 1994, was documented in Louisiana in 1999, Catchot says.

“It was never extremely damaging on sugarcane, but for grain sorghum it’s a different story: They can reproduce and blow up very quickly, and they can be extremely damaging and yield-limiting.”

Read the rest of the story in Delta Farm Press.

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