Texas Crop Weather: Sugarcane Aphids Here to Stay

    Sugarcane aphids cluster on the underside of grain sorghum leaves. The pest decreases yields and secretes a sticky waste called “honeydew” that gums up combine harvesters. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Dr. Raul Villanueva)

    Though the sugarcane aphid is manageable, it’s likely here to stay in South Texas and the rest of the state, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service expert.

    The sugarcane aphid became a pest of sorghum for the first time in South Texas in 2013, said Danielle Sekula-Ortiz, an AgriLife Extension integrated pest management agent in Weslaco. The same year, outbreaks occurred in South and East Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Missouri. Today, the pest has been reported damaging sorghum and other crops in 11 southern states and several states in Mexico.

    “This year, from mid-April to early May, we had an explosion of sugarcane aphids,” Sekula-Ortiz said. “And now we’re back into the fall, and they remain very much established.”

    South Texas has perfect conditions for the pest overwintering, she said. Winter temperatures rarely drop below 25 degrees, which is not a hard enough freeze to severely affect overwinter populations. And there’s always some green vegetation on which it can survive.

    “And the (scouting) numbers show that for the Rio Grande Valley and the southern tip of Texas, that this is going to be an established pest,” she said. “It’s going to be here all year long.”

    Though conditions north of the Valley may not be as ideal for the pest, Sekula-Ortiz said it’s generally believed by entomologists that the pest is not going away in the rest of the state either, although its impact on crops such as sorghum and haygrazer may not be as extreme.

    If there is any good news about the pest, it’s manageable with frequent scouting and timely treatments, Sekula-Ortiz said. And there are a couple of new treatments that will become available to growers this coming spring.

    AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

    Central: Most counties reported the condition of soil moisture, rangeland and pastures, and crop conditions as fair. Overall, livestock were in good condition. Weather was considerably warmer compared to last week, and cotton harvesting began. In some areas, ranchers and farmers were finishing planting winter pastures. In others, wheat and oat planting was still going strong. Pecan growers were harvesting early maturing varieties and seeing good quality. Forages were still good, but rangeland and pasture were declining because of fall conditions. There were more reports of armyworms in pastures and early emerged small grains.

    Coastal Bend: Some counties reported rain, but overall the area’s weather remained dry and open. Cooler nighttime temperatures slowed the growth of warm-season grasses. Forage producers continued to scout for fall armyworm while experiencing significant damage from white grubs for which there were no control recommendations. Where drier conditions prevailed, growers were back in fields, catching up on sowing wheat and taking another cutting of hay. The drier weather also allowed a few remaining cotton fields to be harvested and/or stalks destructed. Beef producers finished the fall cattle-working sessions, and were selling cull cows and the remainder of the calf crop.

    East: The region received light, scattered showers. Most counties reported topsoil moisture was adequate. With the cooler weather and adequate rain, some winter forages were beginning to emerge and show excellent growth. Many producers were still planting cool-season winter forages but needed more rain for germination. Some producers continued baling hay, though curing conditions worsened with cooler weather and heavy dews. Fall armyworms were still being reported. Feral hogs were on the move. Pecan scab reports increased in Henderson County. Cattle remained in good condition. Area livestock market reports remained strong for all classes of cattle. Livestock producers continued weaning and selling spring calves and cull cows.

    Far West: Hot, muggy days and cool nights were the norm for most of the week. Most of the area received from a trace to 3.5 inches of rain. Subsoil moisture ranged from short to very short, and topsoil moisture was short to very short, with the exception of Ector County were both were adequate to short. Pastures and rangeland were in fair to poor condition, with the exception of Presidio County, where good to excellent conditions were reported. Upland cotton was in fair to good condition, with the exception of El Paso County, where it ranged from good to excellent. Winter wheat was 40 to 100 percent emerged throughout the region. The corn harvest was finished. In El Paso County, the first-crop Pawnee pecan harvest was done. Western variety pecans were showing shuck separation and opening. The final alfalfa cutting was done, and cotton being defoliated was expected to be ready for harvest in seven to 10 days.

    North: The region did not receive any significant rain. Topsoil moisture was mostly adequate, with some counties reporting surplus. Daytime temperatures were in the low 80s, with nighttime temperatures in the mid 50s. Pastures still looked good. Farmers continued to plant small grains and winter annual pastures. Overall, cattle were in good condition. The first annual Collin County Commercial Heifer Show and Sale was held Oct. 16-17, with 111 head of heifers selling in 21 lots for a total of $134,000. Insect populations declined, except for armyworms, which were still an issue in Fannin County. Feral hogs continued to cause damage.

    Panhandle: Temperatures were near average at the beginning of the week, then warmed to above average by the weekend. Some areas received from a trace to 1 inch of rain. The Collingsworth County peanut harvest neared completion. Cotton harvesting began there, with good yields. Some dryland fields produced from one and a half bales to two bales per acre. Deaf Smith County corn producers had to wait a few days for the corn to dry down to continue harvesting, but with the 80-plus degree days it cured quickly. Cotton was struggling at best, with many of the area fields well behind on boll maturity. Other Deaf Smith County producers were applying boll-opening products to earlier planted cotton. Hall County reported that 0.75 inch of rain helped aid wheat progress. The cotton harvest there was in full swing, with good yields. Most Hansford County corn has been harvested, and made 245-265 bushels per acre. The grain sorghum harvest was in full swing. The cotton harvest should start soon. Randall County cotton had about 60 percent of its bolls open. Many cotton fields was defoliated, and some harvesting should begin in the next couple of weeks. Corn harvesting in Dallam and Hartley counties picked up with the open dry weather. Lots of corn going into farm storage due to soft prices. Hay producers were taking final cuttings. Hay prices remained steady due to good demand. Rangeland and pastures were rated mostly fair to good. Cattle were in good condition. Spring cow/calf operators were winding up weaning. Some cattle were being moved to wheat.

    Rolling Plains: Weather conditions remained favorable for fieldwork. Daytime temperatures ranged from the 70s and 80s in the western part of the region to the 90s in other parts. Winter wheat was in good condition where rain had been received. Other areas needed rain before germination will occur. Most of the region needed rain for crops and to refill lakes and stock tanks. To take advantage of high market prices and relieve grazing pressure on pastures before the first freeze, producers were weaning and shipping calves. Cotton growers were either already defoliating or preparing fields for defoliation. Irrigated cotton yields were expected to be above average. Peanut harvesting began, and pecan harvestings was ongoing.

    South: Mild daytime and cool nighttime temperatures continued to be the rule. Light, spotty showers occurred in a few parts of the region. In the northern part of the region, seasonal crops were doing well. Peanuts were being harvested, hay baled and wheat planted. In McMullen County, fall armyworm activity declined as temperatures cooled. Rangeland and pasture conditions remained mixed – fair in some areas and drought-stressed in others. Cattle body condition scores remained fair. Soil moisture was 60 percent adequate in Atascosa County, 100 percent surplus in Frio County and 70 percent short in Live Oak County. In the eastern part of the region, fall armyworms continued invading many pastures in Kleberg and Kenedy counties. Rangeland and pastures were otherwise in good to fair condition. Soil moisture was 60 to 75 percent adequate in Brooks County, and 50 to 100 percent short to very short in Jim Hogg, Jim Well s, Klebe rg and Kenedy counties. In the western part of the region, all summer crops were harvested except for Bermuda grass hay. Producers continued irrigating cool-season crops, including some fall sorghum and Sudan for hay production. Spinach and cabbages progressed well. Pecan harvesting was very active. Overall, rangeland and pastures were in good condition. Soil moisture ranged from 100 percent very short in Zavala County to 50 percent adequate in Maverick County. In the southern part of the region, fall corn, tomatoes, onions and peppers were progressing well. In Cameron County, forages for livestock and grazing were in good to excellent condition. In Hidalgo County, sugarcane and citrus harvesting began, and growers were planting onions and cabbages. In Starr County, fall vegetable crops were doing well, hay baling and buffelgrass seed harvesting continued. Willacy County received good amounts of rain. Some areas of the county received 0.5 inch, while others received up to 3 inches. Soil moisture was mostly adequate, except for Starr County where it was 80 percent short.

    South Plains: Cochran County pastures and rangeland were in good condition. Most of Floyd County cotton was either sprayed with harvest aides last week or will be this week. Late-planted grain sorghum and corn there won’t be harvested for a couple more weeks; some producers may wait until after the cotton harvest is completed. Garza County had warmer weather that helped cotton to progress. Some producers began harvesting there last week. Hockley County producers were also defoliating cotton in hopes of getting the harvest really cranked up in a couple weeks. Corn producers were waiting on some late-planted fields to finish drying. Grain sorghum was also being harvested there with about average yields. Lubbock County had light showers on Oct. 22 and a high of 91 degrees on Oct. 26, which helped with late-planted cotton maturing. No freeze has been projected in the near forecast. About 20 percent of Lubbock County cot ton has been defoliated, and harvest activities were increasing. Mitchell County received about 0.5 inches of rain, which helped winter wheat. Cotton harvest was about to begin. Scurry County reported some fall armyworm infestations in winter wheat, but populations began to drop with cooler weather.

    Southwest: Weather conditions were unchanging with very little precipitation. Forages, rangeland and cropland responded well, however, to whatever precipitation was received. Winter crops began to develop, and winter wheat and oats were being planted. Armyworms were still being reported in some areas. Livestock remained in good condition. Deer were starting to rut.

    West Central: Days remained unseasonably warm and dry with mild nights. A few areas reported some light showers. Producers were finishing planting small grains. Some producers had to replant some small grain fields that were lost due to armyworm infestations. Wheat sowing was mostly completed. Armyworm pressures were subsiding. A few producers were able to take another cutting of coastal Bermuda grass hay. Defoliation and cotton harvesting of irrigated cotton was well underway in most areas. Most dryland cotton producers will likely wait until after the first freeze. Rangeland and pastures were in fair to good condition going into the winter. Livestock remained in fair to good condition. Fall livestock work continued. Stock-tank water levels further declined, which was becoming a serious concern for some ranchers. The pecan harvest was expected to begin in the next week or two.

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