This year, the sugarcane aphid has been found overwintering much farther north than previously expected, according to Dr. Robert Bowling, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologist, Corpus Christi.

This means the potential for sugarcane aphids on sorghum crops could be higher, not just for South Texas but for the rest of the state as well, Bowling said.

“Last year the thought was that the sugarcane aphid was not overwintering farther north than Victoria County,” he said. “So far, we’ve found the sugarcane aphid in the majority of South Texas counties from Gonzales County south.

This year, Bowling initiated an “early warning” project to aggressively scout for overwintering populations of sugarcane aphid in South Texas, he said. Early scouting could provide important information for sorghum producers because the pest overwinters well in South Texas.

Winged adults move northward on weather fronts from South Texas to infest sorghum fields in the rest of the state, Bowling said. An early warning could give sorghum producers time to look for and control sugarcane aphid infestations before they reach economic injury levels.

On March 2, Bowling, accompanied by Dwight Sexton, AgriLife Extension agent for Gonzales County, was scouting in that county, he said. He and Sexton found overwintering sugarcane aphids at the first stop they made, on Johnsongrass.
“Most have been found on Johnsongrass, but some were on sorghum and forage sorghums,” Bowling said.

Why the expansion of the sugarcane aphid’s overwintering range even though South Texas had a colder than usual winter?

Bowling posits that it had to do with the timing and severity of the cold fronts that moved through the area.

“We had the cold fronts moving in late in the season, but temperatures weren’t cold enough to kill the Johnsongrass or the sugarcane aphids.”

As part of his project, Bowling is preparing to publish a newsletter that will go out to AgriLife Extension agents and specialists throughout Texas. The newsletter will be published twice a month and will be available on the Corpus Christi AgriLife website at http://ccag.tamu.edu/.