Kansas extension agent on sugarcane aphids: ‘A serious threat to industry’

Courtesy K-State Dept. of Entomology

SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – The Sedgwick County Extension Office has confirmed its first case of sugarcane aphids of 2017.

“It hasn’t been here long yet, so for the sorghum producers and farmers in the county, it’s definitely important that we now start scouting for this pest,” said Sedgwick County Extension Agricultural and Natural Resources Agent Zach Simon.

Simon said sugarcane aphids, true bugs that suck sap from plants, were found in a sorghum field near Colwich on Wednesday.

“These aphids have not been here for more than 10 days probably, at the longest,” Simon said.

However, Simon said it won’t take long for the aphids to spread and potentially cause damage to Kansas sorghum.

“These things reproduce extremely fast,” Simon said. “They could potentially suck the plant dry so the grain won’t produce. It doesn’t have enough moisture in the plant or nutrients because the aphids are stealing all of those.”

Sugarcane aphids are capable of very high rates of reproduction and produce copious amounts of honeydew. Simon said while the bugs may appear tiny, they can be lethal. He said sugarcane aphids reduced yields and even destroyed some crops in 2016.

“We have had fields of sorghum completely lost, not even harvested just flat on the ground because the plant was, you know, infested and weak and just fell over before it made any grain,” he said.

Simon said the aphids have caused problems for Kansas farmers for several years. He added there are fewer sorghum acres in the state because of the aphids.

“It’s been a real struggle with the industry. The industry is working really hard on the plant breeding side, chemically, entomology side on how we can combat this pest with plant genetics and different insecticides and stuff like that,” he said.

He said if the industry doesn’t get a handle on the aphids sometime soon many farmers could take a financial hit.

“If they are having to treat it at a cost from anywhere from $15 to $20 dollars an acre and they may be looking at treating multiple times in one season, that really cuts into the profit margin,” Simon said.

Farmers or producers should scout their crops for sugarcane aphids. If they find the aphids, Simon said they should immediately make a report with their local extension office.


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