Checkoff Advances Sugarcane Aphid Research

Despite the spread of the sugarcane aphid to 90 percent of U.S. sorghum acres in the 2016 growing season, producers set a national yield record at 77.9 bushels per acre. The Sorghum Checkoff is committed to helping producers continue to combat this unwelcome pest while improving crop and management practices.

The Sorghum Checkoff co-hosted with Dow AgroSciences and Bayer CropScience the second Sorghum - Sugarcane Aphid Research Exchange Meeting on January 3-4 in Dallas, Texas. The meeting served as an opportunity for nearly 60 researchers to present the findings of research conducted throughout 2016. The Sorghum Checkoff plans to distribute the research findings to producers throughout 2017 and continues to provide education and support for those who need to manage the pest.

"While the sugarcane aphid was a major issue for many producers in 2016, we believe the impact was lessened by management strategies  implemented based on knowledge gained from research trials in 2015," said Sorghum Checkoff Agronomist Brent Bean, Ph.D. "The Sorghum Checkoff board of directors invested $300,000 in sugarcane aphid research in 2016, and research partnerships have been developed with universities and extension to help provide more solutions for growers."

Bean said results from the 2016 targeted research will help fill sugarcane aphid management knowledge gaps. The research conducted targeted six key areas: Determining optimum threshold between different growth stages, managing the sugarcane aphid at harvest, managing the sugarcane aphid in the presence of other pests, evaluating reduced rates and tank mixes of available insecticides, determining efficacy and residual activity of seed treatments on the sugarcane aphid and demonstrating integrated pest management (IPM) approaches to aphid control.

Sugarcane aphid thresholds are currently based on hybrids highly susceptible to the pest. New research sought to determine if the treatment threshold should differ for those hybrids identified with some tolerance to the sugarcane aphid.

Most research completed pertaining to treatment thresholds has focused on sugarcane aphid infestations occurring pre-flowering. New research examined the effect of the sugarcane aphid on yield when infestations occur post-flowering and how the treatment threshold may need to be adjusted.

Sugarcane aphid infestation near sorghum harvest can cause harvesting issues as a result of honeydew on the upper leaves and with aphids in the sorghum head. Studies were conducted to determine the benefits and limitations of using a harvest-aid on reducing sugarcane aphid populations and honeydew at harvest.

Sugarcane aphid infestations often occur the same time other pests, such as midge and headworms, are present. Trials were conducted to determine the best treatment or treatment combinations to control multiple pests at the same time.

Sivanto Prime and Transform are the two products currently recommended for use in controlling the sugarcane aphid. Studies were conducted to determine the most effective rates and impact on sugarcane aphid control when mixing with other insecticides.

Seed treatments are known to control the sugarcane aphid early in the growing season. To investigate this further, research was conducted to determine how long control could be expected to last.

"A special thanks to the efforts of those in the research community who made this research possible," Bean said. "The results of these studies will be imperative to the coming growing season."

The sugarcane aphid has and will continue to be a major priority for the Sorghum Checkoff, and plans are being made to fund additional sugarcane aphid research in 2017. Research summaries and management best-practices are set to be distributed during the first quarter of the year along with more details on the results of these studies.

Read Brent Bean's latest article on sugarcane aphid resesarch here.

View 2017sugarcane aphid management tips here.