The sugarcane aphid is likely here to stay in South Texas and the rest of the state. It’s a manageable pest but adds one more threat and more cost to grain sorghum producers.
The sugarcane aphid became a pest of sorghum for the first time in South Texas in 2013, said Danielle Sekula-Ortiz, an AgriLife Extension integrated pest management agent in Weslaco. The same year, outbreaks occurred in South and East Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Missouri. Today, the pest has been reported damaging sorghum and other crops in 11 southern states and several states in Mexico.
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“This year, from mid-April to early May, we had an explosion of sugarcane aphids,” Sekula-Ortiz said. “And now we’re back into the fall, and they remain very much established.”
South Texas has perfect conditions for the pest to overwinter, she said. Winter temperatures rarely drop below 25 degrees, which is not a hard enough freeze to severely affect populations. And there’s always some green vegetation on which it can survive.
“And the (scouting) numbers show that for the Rio Grande Valley and the southern tip of Texas, that this is going to be an established pest,” she said. “It’s going to be here all year long.”
Though conditions north of the Valley may not be as ideal for the pest, Sekula-Ortiz said it’s generally believed by entomologists that the pest is not going away in the rest of the state either, although its impact on crops such as sorghum and haygrazer may not be as extreme.
If there is any good news about the pest, it’s manageable with frequent scouting and timely treatments, Sekula-Ortiz said. And there are a couple of new treatments that will become available to growers this coming spring.
More information on the current Texas drought and wildfire alerts can be found on the AgriLife Extension Agricultural Drought Task Force website at http://agrilife.tamu.edu/drought/.