Because of those heavy infestations Texas AgriLife will host a “Sugarcane Aphid Informative Meeting and Field Day” from 9-10 a.m. May 20 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco, located at 1015 E. U.S. Highway 83. (For more information, contact Villanueva or Sekula-Ortiz at 956-968-5581.)

“We saw damaging populations of the sugarcane aphid in grain sorghum late in the season last year, but we didn’t see any major problems in the head, where the grain is produced,” Villanueva said. “We were hoping it was a one-time event or only a late-season event, or that it wouldn’t affect the head.

“But it’s now obvious that is not the case. We started seeing very high populations three weeks ago, about the time plants were putting out their grain heads.” Without treatment, the insects migrate from lower leaves to the head, the “cash crop” area of the plant, Sekula-Ortiz said.

“Why populations increase so dramatically at this stage is not known,” she said. “It could be environmental, in that they prefer higher temperatures, or that the aphids prefer mature plants, or that the seed treatment, which is designed to protect the plant from aphids in the plants’ early stages, simply wears off. Or it could be a combination of those factors.”

Regardless, if growers don’t treat before they migrate to the head, serious crop losses can occur.

She strongly advises scouting. “If you have a sorghum field completely headed out, and you have not sprayed for sugarcane aphids, or were not aware of this pest, check or have your consultant check your field,” she advised in her weekly newsletter, Pest Cast.  “You probably have heavy sugarcane aphid infestations and will need to spray. The sugarcane aphids are being observed on grain sorghum that is just about to head to sorghum that is already heading.”