The Sugarcane Aphid Makes a Mess on Sorghum

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Sugarcane Aphid Damage to Sorghum

Grain sorghum is a billion dollar crop for Texas producers.  A 2013 outbreak of a new invasive pest (the “white” sugarcane aphid) caused from 25-50% loss in some unprotected fields. Infestations were very heavy, often with 100s of aphids per leaf. Leaves became sticky and shiny from aphid excreta and coated with sooty mold fungus, which hampered harvesting operations. Fortunately for 2014, an insecticide is available.

“Calling the current “white” sugarcane aphid outbreak in Deep South Texas a crisis, Texas AgriLife Extension Integrated Pest Management specialist Danielle Sekula-Ortiz is warning Lower Rio Grande Valley sorghum growers to “brace yourself” after scouting sorghum fields this week and warns about the proliferation of the pest in other types of crops.

“Practically overnight we saw a huge jump in aphid population numbers in sorghum fields across parts of the Valley and we are beginning to see movement between sorghum fields and corn and even sugarcane. I have never seen anything blossom this fast,” Sekula-Ortiz said.

Sekula-Ortiz has been warning sorghum growers to scout fields for the new sugarcane aphids, but she says many are still confused over the more traditional yellow sugarcane aphid and this new aphid species.

“Several growers have dealt with the larger yellow sugarcane aphid in the past and have not fully understood this new aphid represents a greater risk.

The good news, if there is any, is that early applications of Dow AgroSciences’ Transform WG are proving to be effective if applied correctly. The downside is an application increases input costs by about $6 an acre. EPA authorized a Section 18 to Texas Department of Agriculture for the use of Transform WG (sulfoxaflor) on sorghum to control the sugarcane aphid.

“We are looking at the need for two applications for adequate control, and maybe a third application depending on the intensity of the problem in individual fields.”

“Some of our larger producers in the Valley decided early on they wouldn’t treat their fields because of the added costs. Some felt like they had weathered past aphid outbreaks, but over the last week or so they are beginning to understand this is not just an average outbreak of the yellow sugarcane aphid but an entirely new threat.””

Author: Hawkes, L.
Affiliation: Reporter.
Title: “White” sugarcane aphid: “brace yourself” warns IPM specialist.
Source: Southwest Farm Press. 2014-05-20. Available:

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