What is in this article?:
Until confirmation last week, entomologists were not certain how to classify the 'new' aphid. But a definitive identification was reached last week by Dr. Scott Armstrong, USDA-ARS Entomologist from Stillwater, Okla.
"If not treated, the aphid count on a sorghum plant can quickly reach into the thousands, and at that point the plant is lost," Brewer illustrated by pointing out a heavily infected plant on display at the meeting.
Entomologists say there is little doubt the sugarcane aphid could be found for at least the best part of last year across wide areas of the Texas coast, but, for reasons unknown, population numbers did not become critical until just before harvest. Officials suspect just the right conditions contributed to the population explosion of sugarcane aphids last fall, and again this year beginning in late May in the Rio Grande Valley region. Since then, larger numbers of the aphids are blooming in sorghum fields in parts of the Coastal Bend and as far up the coast as the Louisiana border.
During harvest last year in both the lower and upper coastal bend, the production of honey dew on leaves and in the heads of sorghum was so prolific that producers say it gummed up harvesting equipment and caused major problems in many fields. A few sorghum fields were so badly infested that they were a total loss and plants were plowed under.
"We knew because of a mild winter that we were going to see a return of the aphid this year, and that's because this sugarcane aphid can winter well on Johnson grass," Brewer said.
Now that nearly 300,000 acres of sorghum in a three-county area including Corpus Christi are faring well after a late planting schedule this spring, the aphids have moved into commercial fields.
"A lot people don't realize that Nueces, San Patricio and Aransas counties are one of the largest grain sorghum growing areas in the nation," Brewer said.
Jason Ott, Texas A&M Extension agent for Nueces County, says before heavy rains that fell across the area two weeks ago, only a few of the sugarcane aphid were being scouted in area fields.
"What we had was an aphid rain," Brewer said. "After the beneficial rains greened up sorghum and cotton fields across the area, we began to see more aphids working their way into commercial crops."
At first, light populations were being reported after the rain. But within days aphid counts jumped to nearly 500 aphids per plant. That number has quickly jumped in a few fields with numbers estimated in the thousands per plant in isolated areas.