Heavy Infestation of Sugarcane Aphid in Arizona, California Sorghum

Arizona and California sorghum growers and pest control advisers (PCAs) should be on high alert for the new invasive pest -sugarcane aphid – found in heavy numbers in some fields in central Arizona and the southern San Joaquin Valley.

Staff at the Arizona Pest Management Center (APMC) has collected and field identified several samples in the Maricopa and Stanfield areas in Pinal County. University of Arizona insect diagnostician Gene Hall confirmed the sorghum crop invader as sugarcane aphid, Melanaphis sacchari. This is a new pest report for the state.

According to the APMC, it’s likely this aphid has been in the state for longer than this year, although reports had extended only as far west as eastern New Mexico in 2015.

Some California PCAs are reporting that traditional aphid control practices are not working against the new aphid species.

The University of California will host a tailgate meeting Sept. 7 near Pixley to examine an infested field. The event starts at 10 a.m. at the corner of Avenue 104 and Road 104.

Growers and PCAs can review the UC newsletter bulletin on sugarcane aphid developed by university entomologists David Haviland, Pete Goodell, and Larry Godfrey with assistance by Jeff Dahlberg of the Kearney Agricultural Research & Extension Center.

According to the UC bulletin, the sugarcane aphid sugarcane aphid is yellow in color with black feet, and the tips of antennae and cornicles (tailpipes) point upward from the rear of the insect -a different appearance than other aphid species.

Sugarcane aphids intercept nutrients in the plant sap which develop leaves and grain heads. Heavy sugarcane aphid infestations can kill leaves, stunt growth, and reduce the size and quality of grain heads.

In addition, honeydew and sooty mold on leaves can impact photosynthesis and gum up harvest equipment.

More information on the pest, including photos of the sugarcane aphid on sorghum plants, is available via this UA link.

Click here for more information from Texas A&M Agrilife Extension and Research about identification biology, damage, sampling, and management.

Source: Cary Blake, Western Farm Press

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