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Texas Row Crops Experiencing Light Insect Pressure So Far

Row crops in North Texas and the South Plains are in the home stretch and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service experts want producers to keep a watchful eye on pest infestations.

Dr. Allen Knutson, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Dallas, and Blayne Reed, AgriLife Extension integrated pest management specialist, Hale County, reported pest activity in North Texas and the South Plains has been “light” so far. But both said producers should scout vigilantly and be prepared to act to protect crops.

Corn

corn earworm

A New World corn earworm also known as the cotton bollworm, dines on an ear of corn — Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Dr. Pat Porter

Knutson said corn between Waco and the Red River is drying down, which reduces the risk of insect damage. He said harvest should begin in a few weeks.

“There have been relatively few insect problems in corn,” he said. “Mexican corn rootworms were present in some fields earlier, and spider mites bear watching in later-planted fields.”

Reed said most corn in the South Plains varied in stages due to numerous replants. But the pest pressure was also light in cornfields, with sparse fall armyworm feeding and light bollworm egg lays compared to recent seasons.

Sorghum

Knutson said much of the sorghum crop in North Texas has completed flowering and is in the grain fill stage.

Headworms, stinkbugs and sugarcane aphids are pests of concern for the crop.

He attributed the light sugarcane aphid pressure to area growers planting aphid-tolerant sorghum hybrids. Planting these hybrids in South Texas also helped reduce the number of aphids moving into North Texas.

“Sugarcane aphids have been generally light throughout the area but can increase rapidly even late in the season,” he said. “Producers should monitor fields twice a week for sugarcane aphids and honeydew accumulation on leaves and grain heads, which can make harvest very difficult.”

For control of sugarcane aphid late season, follow insecticide labels on waiting period after insecticide application and before harvest; some have a 14-day waiting period, Knutson said.

Reed said pest populations remain light with no reports of sugarcane aphids, but producers need to be vigilant.

“This could be a long season for watching pests such as sorghum midge and many others with such a wide range of blooming time frames in the same area,” he said. “It could prove likely that the pest populations could build larger with each ‘generation’ of crop development, reaching levels that would be quite high by the fall for the latest fields.”

Cotton

The key pest of concern in cotton is the bollworm, Knutson said.

Beneficial insects that feed on bollworms are the first line of defense but can be overwhelmed when large numbers of bollworm eggs occur.

“All cotton, especially varieties with two Bt genes for resistance, should be scouted weekly for bollworms to determine if an insecticide is needed,” he said.

Reed said South Plains cotton ranged from pinhead square to first bloom. Most fields were experiencing pests, especially fleahoppers, but beneficial insects and weather conditions have decreased their numbers.

“We did find one bollworm egg in a cotton field this week,” he said. “This is early for the region and is hopefully not a precursor for issues to come, but it is noteworthy.”

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension contributed this article. Click here to read the complete Texas Crop and Weather Report for July 22.