AgriLife Extension to host sugarcane webinar


CORPUS CHRISTI — To improve their chances of a successful 2016 grain sorghum crop in Texas, growers should be aware of the latest research developments in sugarcane aphid economics and pest management, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologist.

To help growers get up to date, AgriLife Extension will host the Sugarcane Aphid Research and Management Update webinar from 1-3p.m Feb. 1, said Dr. Robert Bowling, an entomologist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Corpus Christi.

For those wanting to attend online, go to

Those wanting to attend the session in person are invited to the Corpus Christi center at 10345 State Highway 44, Corpus Christi.

“Sugarcane aphids were not a major issue in South Texas in 2015, but this is a new year and we start the process all over again,” Bowling said. “Growers shouldn’t become complacent and think that maybe sugarcane aphids were a flash in the pan and will no longer be a problem.”

Sugarcane aphids, which can drastically reduce sorghum yields and gum up harvesting equipment, were not an issue last year because of weather conditions, Bowling said. Rain and cool temperatures are not favorable for population increases.

“But they could be a big problem this year,” he said. “Growers should check their fields often because populations can explode quickly.”

Research conducted on sugarcane aphids in 2015 will be relayed to growers during the webinar. Of particular importance will be results of economic thresholds and pest management trials, Bowling said.

“The Chinese are driving the commodity prices for grains. They are reducing their imports so that’s affecting prices; driving prices down. That means growers have to really ‘sharpen their pencils’ in managing this year’s crop.”

Two research field trials have shown that surfactants may not be as necessary as once thought, Bowling said.

“Our research shows that they’re not required for insecticides used on grain sorghum. That may save a grower only a dollar or so per acre, but when we’re talking about cutting costs, those dollars add up. If we can reduce input costs and still get the same yield results, that will be important in the economic environment we’re facing.”

Results of pest management trials will also play a major role in this year’s crop because the Environmental Protection Agency revoked all uses of Transform, the principal insecticide used in the control of sugarcane aphids.

“We’ve applied for an emergency Section 18 use permit for Transform, which the EPA is taking very seriously,” Bowling said. “We’re very hopeful we’ll have use of that product. It will be necessary as an alternative mode of action because sugarcane aphids have the ability to build resistance to insecticides in a short period of time.”

Results of field tests conducted last year show Sivanto has good efficacy as well as residual activity of about three weeks, Bowling said.

“It shows nice activity against sugarcane aphids and could do well in rotation with Transform to decrease the likelihood of resistance.”

Also of interest to grain sorghum growers this year, which will be discussed during the Feb. 1 session, is a new sugarcane aphid decision-making tool that Bowling said is easy to use, economical and one that growers will find useful.

“We’ll also have some information on host-plant resistant hybrids that show a level of

tolerance,” he said. “That information will also be shared. We’ve applied for two Texas Department of Agriculture continuing education units for those attending, and we’ll finish off the day with a question-and-answer session.”

Speakers and their topics will include:

— Dr. Michael Brewer, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Corpus Christi, and John Gordy, AgriLife Extension agent, Fort Bend County, Sugarcane Aphid Economic Threshold and Sampling Update.

— Stephen Biles, AgriLife Extension integrated pest management agent, Port Lavaca, Insecticide Management Update and Regulatory Issues.

— Dr. Levi Russell, AgriLife Extension agricultural economist, Corpus Christi, Sugarcane Aphid Decision-Making Tool.

— Bowling, Don’t be Complacent in 2016! Host Plant Resistance and Wrap-Up.

Bowling said growers can also participate in the session at any AgriLife Extension county office, but contacting the respective county agent prior to the meeting is recommended.

Rod Santa Ana III is a Texas A&M AgriLife communications specialist.