The sugarcane aphid, a new pest in South Texas grain sorghum production, could pose a serious threat to what many expect to be significant acreage this year.

Grain sorghum is a billion dollar crop for Texas producers, and this tiny pest could take a big chunk out of profits, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts.

The threat comes at a bad time. A lingering drought and increased market pressures suggest growers will plant a larger than normal crop this year.

“For now, we’re calling this pest the sugarcane aphid,” said Dr. Raul Villanueva, an entomologist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco. “It was first seen last year. We’re not sure if it’s a new invasive pest or if it just switched hosts, from sugarcane to grain sorghum. But it is a serious threat to this year’s grain crop and at this time there is no proven control for it.”

Sorghum research will improve productivity.

An insecticide known as Transform WG was tested and found to be effective against this pest, Villanueva said. The Texas Department of Agriculture recently submitted a request to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to approve an emergency exemption for its use on grain sorghum to control the aphid in Texas.

It is among 10 pesticides now being tested in Texas and Louisiana for potential to manage sugarcane aphid populations.

The pest appeared suddenly in 2013.

 

Read more on Southwest grain production:

2014 feed grain outlook — will use catch up with supply?

New aphid poses threat to grain sorghum

Corn and drought not supporting wheat prices