5 Things to Know About the Sugarcane Aphid

By: Michelle Hochstein, Communications Intern

The sugarcane aphid is a relatively new pest to the sorghum industry, and it is capable of causing substantial damage to the crop if untreated. It is important for producers to be proactive and constantly scout for and monitor the pest because regular detection can minimize the aphid’s harmful effects. In order to achieve a healthy sorghum crop, here are the five things producers need to know to mitigate effects from the sugarcane aphid:

Scout early and often!

Justin Weinheimer, Sorghum Checkoff crop improvement director, says the most important aspect in dealing with the aphid is scouting. He encourages producers to scout for aphid presence several times a week, particularly as they near the latter part of the growing season. With early detection of the aphid, producers are able to put in place a scouting schedule and management plan.

“Once producers get their scouting schedule set and identify their management plan, they will really be able to get a head start on identifying the issue before it becomes severe,” Weinheimer said.

A few aphids does not mean crop failure or a need to spray immediately…it means scout more often!

When sugarcane aphids are first detected, it is important to remember that a few aphids does not necessarily mean there is an issue. At first detection, Weinheimer said producers should scout further into their fields to see how the aphids have moved within the field as well as into neighboring fields. Producers should continue to scout at least three times a week throughout the season in order to monitor how the aphid is progressing.

“I think the first step here for producers needs to be to reach out to their local entomologist expert to let them know they have identified this issue,” Weinheimer said. “Then they can work as a team, as a farm operation, to decide how to go about tackling it.”

Current spray threshold estimates are 100 aphids per leaf

The recommended threshold for spraying is 100 aphids per leaf on several leaves on a plant, on at least 10 plants across the field. According to Weinheimer, it is important for producers to be able to determine if they are at that threshold as well as determine when to spray depending on where they are in the growing season.

“Sorghum can take a high-aphid load, in terms of the number of aphids per plant, before it starts detrimentally impacting yield,” he said.

The aphid reproduces very fast…do not wait to check back on a field

Scouting becomes even more important once the presence of the sugarcane aphid is detected. Because of the quick reproduction cycle of the aphid, its population can grow from a few aphids to a full infestation within a 10-day period if no action is taken.

“In order to accurately gauge what the aphids are doing in the field, producers really have to be checking every three days,” Weinheimer said.

There are tools available to help prevent and combat this pest

DEKALBPioneer and Chromatin announced the addition of hybrids that showed tolerance to the aphid. In addition, Syngenta recently announced approval for Cruiser 5FS seed treatment in 16 states by Section 2(ee) exemption. These companies along with others continue to research additional genetics to introduce to the market.

When the aphid population reaches the spray threshold, producers have some options when it comes to pesticides. Transform WG, a product of Dow AgroSciences, is available by state through a Section 18 exemptionSivanto, produced by Bayer CropScience, is a newly available option with a full label at a reduced rate. Other companies also offer broad-level insecticides that can be used to treat aphids.

To help mitigate the effects of the sugarcane aphid, Sorghum Partners recently announced a Sugarcane Aphid Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program that combines the use of multiple pest control tactics.

Weinheimer said producers will continue to see more tools brought to the market in the near future, and the Sorghum Checkoff is actively involved in gaining a better understanding of how to manage it. Currently, the Checkoff is working in collaboration with Dow AgroSciences on a national endeavor geared toward sugarcane aphid control. The Checkoff board of directors invested $350,000 in this project.

“The sugarcane aphid, while it has presented some issues in the past, is treatable,” Weinheimer said. “It is possible to have a very profitable crop and do a great job growing grain sorghum in the presence of the aphid.”