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Extension Entomology

Tag: freezing

Late-Season Update on the Sugarcane Aphid in Kansas

— by J.P. Michaud, Sarah Zukoff and Brian McCornack

 

The sugarcane aphid (SCA) has been causing a range of harvesting problems in central Kansas.  In some cases, sticky honeydew has been gumming up combines, sometimes bringing harvest to a halt, or slowing combine speeds.  Fortunately, provided the grain has hardened, you can wait for a week or so and this honeydew will be weathered by the elements (and sooty mold) so that it is no longer sticky. The sooty mold that grows on it is not toxic, and so is not a concern for the cattle for those who plan to graze the stubble.  However, palatability and nutritional value of the stubble may be somewhat reduced if aphid infestations have been heavy.

 

A more widespread problem is that aphid infestations in maturing panicles have caused uneven ripening of the grain, which in turn has caused uneven drying. Harvest has been delayed in some cases because grain moisture measurements in a field can be so variable that a decision to harvest is difficult to make.

 

Back in late September, we observed a sudden cold snap in SW Kansas (overnight low = 39 deg F) that caused significant aphid mortality (Photos 1 & 2).

photo1

Photo 1. SCA summer forms killed by 39 deg F cold shock, Garden
City, KS, Sept. 28, 2016 (Sarah Zukoff). Dead aphids are black.

 

photo2

Photo 2. Close-up of summer forms killed by cold shock (Sarah Zukoff).

 

This suggested that large numbers of aphids might be killed by low temps that were still well above freezing.  However, as day length shortens and temperatures get gradually cooler in the fall, we can see the aphids transition to a ‘winter phenotype’ with biology quite different from the pale yellow forms we see in summer. The aphids become much darker in color, slower to grow and reproduce, longer lived, and much more cold tolerant. This was evident in a field in Rooks County (thank you Cody Miller!) that had two successive freeze events last weekend (overnight lows were 23 and 26 deg F, respectively), and yet had remarkably high numbers of aphids still alive as harvest began on Tuesday.  It is possible that aphids lower down within the crop canopy were buffered somewhat from the extreme lows,  However, even though all the leaves were killed by the freeze, many aphids remained alive on the stems and in the leaf axials, with freeze-killed aphids appearing black and shriveled (Photos 3-5).

photo3

photo4

photo5

Photos 3, 4 & 5. Winter phenotype SCA that survived 2 freeze events, Rooks
County, KS, Nov. 15, and those that did not (black). (photos Ahmed Hassan).

The winter phenotype of SCA is clearly adapted to survive short, sub-tropical winters by remaining alive on any green plant tissues or vegetative regrowth, as they have been doing in south Texas (Photo 6).  Of course this will not happen in Kansas, so all the aphids will disappear once the plants are completely dead.

photo6

Photo 6. Overwintering colony of SCA in south TX, Dec. 2013 showing
dark coloration of winter phenotype (photo Raul Villanueva)

 

Great variation in hybrid susceptibility to SCA has been evident in a number of performance tests this year, with many seed companies identifying one or more lines with substantial resistance and/or tolerance to these aphids.  Farmers are should seek advice from seed company representatives on which of their hybrids have performed best under aphid pressure.

 

 

Alfalfa Update

By — Dr. Jeff Whitworth, Dr. Holly Schwarting

Alfalfa continues to be problematic in NC Kansas.  There seems to be many fields of good alfalfa, apparently treated in an effective manner from both an insecticide and a timing standpoint, and not affected by the freezing temperatures earlier this spring.  Many of these fields have been, or are being, swathed.  However, there are some fields that have had, or are having, a difficult time overcoming the combination of alfalfa weevil larval feeding, early season dry conditions, and the early spring freezing temperatures.  In all fields, the early season warmth sped up alfalfa weevil development and feeding, then the cooler temperatures slowed it back down.  Alfalfa weevil larvae were 1st detected in NC Kansas in early March.  Small, 1st instar larvae are still being detected in some fields.

AW larvae 13

Some larvae pupated and developed into adults as long as three weeks ago, and they are still in the alfalfa fields.  So, NC Kansas still has a significant number of adults.  Treating for adult alfalfa weevils is rarely effective, but swathing within 7-10 days should help manage both larvae and adults without an insecticide application.

AW adult

Adult potato leafhoppers have also been noted in alfalfa fields.  These usually migrate into Kansas between the 2nd and 3rd cuttings, so they are about a month early this year. Leafhopper adult (2)

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