Mo Way on Rice: Watching for Stink Bugs

    It’s July 1 and I am considering planting another 1 or 2 blocks of rice! I have replanted rice, soybean and sorghum blocks multiple times this year because of extremely persistent wet weather. These late plantings will not produce typical yields, but at least I hope to get some okay bug data.

    We are now getting into the rice stink bug season, so I’ve been checking a few fields for this critter. As of June 30, I have not found very high populations of rice stink bug east of Houston, but I am getting reports of high populations west of Houston. Remember, the most critical time for rice stink bugs is heading and milk (when treatment thresholds are the lowest). Access the 2014 Texas Rice Production Guidelines here.

    My project is in the process of revising the stink bug thresholds. Revised thresholds will be based strictly on commercial field data—not cage studies. Cages can affect the plant and the insect which can skew treatment thresholds. In the meantime, I strongly encourage you farmers to sample your fields for rice stink bug using a sweep net. Regular and frequent scouting can save you money and protect the environment—a win/win situation!

    I want to mention an outreach activity my project has been involved with for several years. I have teamed up with Dr. Otilia Urbina in the Education Department at Lamar University. She is in charge of the Bernard Harris ExxonMobil Lamar University Summer Science Camp.

    About 50 middle school girls and boys from underrepresented, underserved families are selected to participate in this program. These kids are chosen based on their interest in and aptitude for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). I host them at the Beaumont Center for a full day (this year June 23) and teach them about science and math as related to agriculture—primarily rice production. Among the activities is a nature walk along the margins of rice fields.

    This year we observed a mama killdeer defend her nest of eggs by pretending to be injured in hopes of luring onlookers away from the nest; baby killdeer recently hatched from a nest; cattle egrets and a great egret foraging in a rice field; black-necked stilts swooping and squawking overhead; red-winged blackbirds perched on cattails; female mosquitos feeding on unprotected arms and legs; aphids feeding in the whorls of sorghum and numerous other projects.

    Drs. Shane Zhou, Dante Tabien and Suhas Vyavhare spoke to the kids about the value of education in their home countries. They also told them a little about their cultures including food, festivals and language. It was a very rewarding day for all involved. A comment from a student summed up the event: “I really enjoyed learning about rice and science and want to come back here more often, I may even become an “antamologist”. Oh well, can’t learn it all in one sitting!

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