Alabama: Scouting Essential for Insect Pest Management

    Insect scouting should begin in the field as soon as plants emerge. Determining the plant stand at emergence can help the farmer get a better idea of issues facing the crop.

    Regional Extension Agent, Rudy Yates, said plant stands may be affected by a number of problems–insect pests, disease pathogens, soil crusting, flooding and wildlife.

    “Check your fields weekly,” Yates said. “Based on the field’s cropping history, current crop, stage of growth (vegetative or reproductive), pest history and type, weather conditions and several other factors, farmers may need to scout twice per week or more.”

    Prevalent Crop Pests in Alabama

    Alabama is a diverse state with different soil types, environments and other factors. Some pest situations are the same from north to south throughout the state, however there will be circumstances where growers in north Alabama experience issues with a pest that south Alabama does not have.

    Corn pests include cutworms, chinch bugs, stink bugs, sugarcane beetle (based on field’s history), corn earworm and other pests.

    Peanut pests include burrower bugs, lesser cornstalk borer, cutworms, thrips, southern corn rootworm and other pests.

    Soybean pests also include cutworms, in addition to three-cornered alfalfa hoppers, soybean loopers, stink bugs, green cloverworm and several others.

    Cotton pests are thrips, plant bugs, bollworms, armyworms, spider mites, stink bugs and several other pests.

    Wheat can be damaged by hessian flies, aphids and several other pests.

    Grain sorghum attracts aphids (sugarcane aphids and other species), sorghum midge, armyworms, corn earworms, sorghum webworm and other pests.

    Yates said the 2016 grain sorghum IPM guide has strict directions for producers contemplating growing grain sorghum on their farms.

    “Grain sorghum is attacked by a number of insect pests, including a new pest, the sugarcane aphid. Sugarcane aphid is now the key pest of sorghum. Do not plant sorghum if you cannot afford to scout the crop weekly and apply at least two applications of insecticide for this and other sorghum pests.”

    Extension IPM Scouting Guides

    Extension researchers from across the state have collaborated to provide producers with readily available information for planting, scouting and fertilizing throughout this growing season. IPM guides list insect pests for each crop, action thresholds, scouting techniques and several other considerations to assist farmers in making management decisions.

    “Each crop has unique challenges when it comes to scouting,” Yates said. “Know your crop’s pests. Pest identification is the first step in pest management as well as pesticide safety.”

    He said scouting should occur early in the growing season, as well as mid-way and toward later in the season. Scout multiple locations in a field to get a representative sample of the field, and walk out into the crop to scout.

    Insect pests cause different types of damage. Some pests have chewing mouthparts while others have piercing mouthparts. Damage can occur on the roots, stems foliage and fruit. For this reason, Yates said pest identification is extremely important.

    “Producers also need to be familiar with beneficial insects,” he said. “If insect identification is needed, take a picture or use a container to collect the insect. Record keeping is essential.”

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