An invasion of sorts has occurred in Kansas, and the invaders may pose a problem for this year’s sorghum harvest – but not in the way you might think.
“The sugarcane aphid, Melanaphis sacchari, also known as the sorghum aphid was recently detected in Kansas for the first time ever,” said Kansas State University entomologist Jeff Whitworth. “Scott Armstrong, entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) at Stillwater, Okla., officially confirmed the identity of this particular sorghum pest on Aug. 29 from specimens he collected in a mature sorghum field in Sumner County, Kansas.”
To differentiate this pest from the yellow sugarcane aphid, Sipha flava, some scientists and grain producers are calling it the “white” sugarcane aphid.
“White” sugarcane aphids have been troublesome in the southeastern United States prior to 2013, said Whitworth, who is a crop production specialist with K-State Research and Extension. In 2013, problems were reported in eastern Texas, and the pests have since moved into Oklahoma and have now apparently invaded Kansas.
Kansas’ farmers grow more sorghum than is grown in any other state. In 2013, Kansas produced 165 million bushels of the total 389 million bushels grown in the United States, according to the USDA. Texas was second at just under 129 million bushels.
“This (sugarcane) aphid is yellowish – lime green with black cornicles (tailpipes) and probably will not do much damage by feeding on sorghum plants at this time, as sorghum is mature across the state,” Whitworth said. “However, they produce copious amounts of honeydew, which can interfere with grain harvest because of the stickiness of the honeydew.”
So far it is unclear whether “white” sugarcane aphids will be able to withstand Kansas winters, he said.
Producers who have aphids in sorghum that appear yellow to lime green and have dark tailpipe-looking structures are asked to contact their local K-State Research and Extension county agent and/or K-State entomologist Brian McCornack at firstname.lastname@example.org.