Grain sorghum farmers should be aware of a possible new threat to production in parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.
Melanaphis, an aphid that showed up late this fall in South Texas may cause significant damage, says Dr. Charles Allen, Texas A&M Extension program leader, associate department head and statewide integrated pest management coordinator, San Angelo.
“It turns out that this critter appears to be wintering fairly successfully on the Texas Gulf Coast,” Allen says, “and from studies planted in the fall at Weslaco, it appears to cause significant damage in the seedling and seed development stage.”
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Sightings have not been confined to South Texas, Allen says. “Dr. David Kerns saw it in Louisiana and Dr. Scott Armstrong saw it in North Texas and Oklahoma. We have not seen the insect west of I-35 in Texas. Dr. Mo Way was the first to find it and let us know that we had a different kind of aphid out there. Clyde Crumley, Steven Biles, Dr. Mike Brewer, Dr. Roy Parker, Dr. Gary Odvody, Dr. David Ragsdale, Marty Jungman, Dr. Raul Villanueva, Danielle Sekula, Dr. Bill Rooney and Jim Swart have seen the aphid and its damage."
Initial testing for ways to control the pest, tests on cultivars that support it, what cultivars it survives on and genetic/morphological work on its identity have been done.
A first order of business is to alert farmers. “Not too many farmers are aware of this since the aphid showed up very late in 2013,” Allen says.
“Most had already harvested. That is part of the problem and why I thought information in Southwest Farm Press might be very helpful. In this case, what folks don’t know can hurt them! We need to make sure that we get word to as many as possible.”
In the meantime, Texas Extension has developed a task force to deal with the issue. “Dr. Raul Villanueva is heading up the Task Force, which includes virtually all the scientists who have seen the aphid in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma,” Allen says.
“We will be getting the word out about Melanaphis because it is new and we believe it may be a significant threat to southern grain sorghum crops.”