Sorghum growers are battling sugarcane aphids. Bug numbers can explode in population and cause 100% crop loss if left uncontrolled. The aphids invade sorghum plants when they’re flowering. They secrete honeydew onto the plant which makes the plant sticky. The residue gums up machinery making harvesting difficult. The pest also sucks out some of the nutrients, reducing yield.
Rusty Bevel is a sales manager for Alta seeds. He recommends planting sorghum hybrids with a higher level of tolerance to sugarcane aphid pressure.
"What that means is, there’s levels of tolerance within sorghum. So, there’s some very susceptible hybrids, there’s some that are kind of middle-of-the-road, and then there’s Aphix, or extremely tolerant hybrids," says Bevel. "In a plot if you had hybrids next to each other, it would prefer the susceptible first and it would get you later. So what that does is buy you time, and gives you a lot more time to scout that plant before it gets to a level that’s unmanageable."
Bevel says counting 50 aphids per leaf on 30% of your crop is when you need to think about spraying. The good news is, there’s been a decrease in sugarcane aphids in the past couple of years.
"It hit us hard in 2013 and kind of moved up, in ’14 and ’15 it hit Kansas pretty hard but producers are learning to manage the crop a little better. Part of that is selecting a hybrid from the get-go that is aphid-tolerant, gives you that extra time and a non-preference, I’d say, from the aphid," he says. "Doing that and then scouting fields, they’re getting in there and spraying earlier so they’re becoming less of an issue."