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AgriLife officials were astounded at the rapid jump in aphid numbers.
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.
Sekula-Ortiz says 172 growers and guests crowded into a special meeting this week at the Texas AgriLife Research & Extension Center in Weslaco to listen to entomologist Dr. Raul Villanueva and other pest specialists provide an update on the outbreak after scouting sorghum fields in recent days revealed an explosion of aphid populations.
"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.
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Also present at the meeting were a number of entomologists and pest management specialists from across the border in Mexico where farmers are also engaged in the same kind of battle with this new pest.
"One researcher from Mexico took the floor and told growers that farmers and officials on both sides of the border need to view this outbreak as a regional problem and not as two isolated incidents," she 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. We have been talking about calling this new aphid a white sugarcane aphid in order to delineate between the two kinds of similar pests," she added.