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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Traveling this Holiday Season? Stay Safe from Bed Bugs!

As I get ready to travel myself for the holidays, I am reminded of an unfortunate run-in I had with bed bugs in a hotel last year. I thought it would be a good time to re-post some information I wrote then on how to stay safe from bed bugs when you're traveling. Feel free to contact me with any questions!

Bed bugs have seen a global resurgence in the past 15 years and don’t discriminate between hosts, housing types, or, unfortunately, hotels. As long as they can get a blood meal they are happy campers. They are notoriously hard to control once an infestation gets started, so I wanted to give everyone some tips to stay ahead of this epidemic when you leave the comforts of your home! 

A shed skin of a bed bug on the underside of a hotel mattress I found recently. As they get older, bed bugs outgrow their outer layer (exoskeleton) and leave behind these shed skins. The black spots near the skin are fecal stains from the bug.

My arm in 2016 after sharing a bed with some bed bugs! Several bites in a line like this are characteristic of bed bug bites. 

An adult bed bug (Photo: Bart Drees, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension)

Tips for Travelers: Scouting for Bed Bugs

How to scout your hotel room for bed bugs:
1.     Don’t put any belongings on the bed or unpack before you complete your inspection. I put my luggage on the luggage rack (usually in the closets of most rooms) or in the bathroom until I have checked for bed bugs.
2.     Things you are looking for: 
·      actual bed bugs 
·      shed skin of immature bugs 
·      dark brown fecal spots (dried excrement)
Adult bed bugs are approximately a quarter of an inch long and red-brown with oval, flattened bodies. Immature bed bugs are smaller versions of the adults, but with a much lighter color and approximately the size of a pinhead.
3.     Begin with a preliminary check around the room. Focus on the corners of ceilings and the baseboards. 
4.     Remove the corners of the fitted sheet and look underneath the mattress and box spring. Examine the mattress seams and crevices in the box spring. Pay special attention to head of the bed. Most cell phones have a flashlight that is very useful for this!
5.     You should also inspect crevices in the bed frame. This is especially important if the bed frame is wood!
6.     If there is a removable headboard, remove it from the wall and inspect the crevices on the back. This is a common place for bed bug infestations to begin. If you have never done this before, make sure you have two people to remove it safely.
7.     Other things that can be inspected include behind picture frames or couches and chairs. But limit your search to items near the bed! 

What to do if your hotel room has bed bugs:
1.     Call the front desk and request a new room. Problems are usually contained in a particular area, so try to get a room in a different area.
2.     Quarantine all your belongings in garbage bags (or something similar), especially if they were on/near the bed or if you experienced bites.
3.     Put everything that is safe for laundering in a dryer at high heat for at least 45 minutes. DO NOT wash first! A washing machine does not typically get hot enough to kill all the bugs. After you have dried everything, then you can resume a normal washing routine. 
4.     Keep your luggage/anything that can’t be laundered in a closed garbage bag until you can treat it. Contact your local pest control company for how to do this. 

Important facts about bed bugs:
·      Bed bugs feed only on the blood of animals and spend most of their time where they can get a reliable blood meal from their host. In the case of hotel rooms, this is near the bed. Only when they are very hungry, or there is a bad infestation, will you find them in other places. 
·      Bed bugs do not transmit diseases when they bite. Every person reacts differently, ranging from mild irritation and itching to large, red welts. Some reactions are delayed and occur days or even weeks after the bite.
·      Bed bug bites are usually painless so people don’t always realize they are being bitten. Any exposed skin is vulnerable, such as arms, legs, face, or neck. Bed bugs will typically make several bites at at time, often in a short line. 
·      Bed bugs are mostly active at night and can go months without a blood meal. Therefore, ignoring a problem and hoping that they starve is not a reliable solution.
·      There has been a global resurgence in bed bugs over the last decade and eradicating an infestation can be time-consuming and expensive. Taking pro-active measures when you’re traveling to avoid bringing them home is always worth it!  

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Important Label Updates for Dicamba

Growers in Texas were fortunate to have access to the newly registered dicamba technologies in 2017 for weed control. While complaints in Texas were relatively low compared to other states, the EPA has worked with companies on new label requirements to reduce any chance of off-target movement of the pesticide in 2018. These changes went into effect in October of this year.

The major changes that applicators need to be aware of are the following:
  • XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology, Fexapan Plus VaporGrip Technology and Engenia herbicides are now classified as Restricted Use Pesticides 
  • Every person applying these products to any crop will be required to attend annual, mandatory auxin-specific training 

Texas A&M Agrilife Extension will be offering these TDA-mandated, 1-hour trainings throughout the winter. We will announce more as they are scheduled, but the first 3 have been scheduled in Amarillo and will be hosted by agronomist Dr. Jourdan Bell.
  • January 12, February 9, March 9
  • 8:30-9:30 am
  • Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Center, 6500 W Amarillo Blvd, Amarillo 
  • There is no fee and each class will be 1 CEU in laws and regulations

We will be hosting trainings in Lubbock, and will get that information out as soon as they are scheduled. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

High Plains Ag Conference - tomorrow Dec 8 in Lubbock!

The annual High Plains Ag Conference is being held tomorrow, Friday, December 8 at the Texas A&M Agrilife Research Center in Lubbock, TX.

Producers can get up to date on the latest crop news in corn, sorghum, and cotton and get 5 CEUs in one day. Topics covered include sorghum, wheat and nitrogen updates, cotton production considerations for 2018, corn herbicide trial results, and nematode and disease management.

Registration and lunch will cost $45 at the door.

Meeting is tomorrow, Friday Dec 8 from 8:30 - 3:00 pm at the Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension Center, 1102 E FM 1294 Lubbock, TX.

Call the Lubbock Co Extension office at 806-775-1740 with any questions.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Southern High Plains IPM Newsletter, Oct 13

This week's newsletter is full of resources on late-season cotton management and fumonisin in corn.

Click here to read! 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Cotton Market Teleconference - this Friday, Oct 13

Get up to date on cotton market information this Friday, October 13.

- Cotton Outlook Teleconference

- Friday, October 13, 2017 at 7:30am

- O.A. Cleveland, Professor Emeritus, Mississippi State University
- John Robinson, Professor and Extension Specialist/Cotton Marketing, Texas A&M University
- Jarral Never, President, Calcot Ltd.
- Patrick McClatchy, Executive Director, Ag Market Network

Guest Speaker:
- H.W. "Kip" Butts, Senior Cotton Analyst and Director of Energy Services, Information Economics

How to listen in:
- Call 712-775-7085
- Code 969119

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Fumonisin Levels and Insect Damage in Corn

The following is a blogpost written by Dr. Pat Porter, Extension Entomologist, for FOCUS on Entomology, a blog of agricultural entomology on the Southern High Plains from Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension. 

Fumonisin Levels and Insect Damage in Corn

Pat Porter

I am not smart enough to be a Plant Pathologist, and in fact had two courses in it in college and still don't understand it. The classic 'disease triangle' taught in pathology says that disease occurs where there is a pathogen, susceptible host and conducive environment. This year we seem to have had a happy triangle for Fumarium species, the causative agents of fumonisins. 

Not much is known locally about how this fungi interact with our corn, but is it thought that drought stress followed by warm, wet weather, especially at flowering, favor the fungi. Being just an entomologist, I tend to think there is a baseline risk for significant fungal infections based on the susceptibility of the host (hybrid genetics) and environmental conditions. Without insects in the system there will be a given level of fungal growth and fumonisin creation. In my simplistic entomologist's picture, the baseline level is what it is and can vary from year to year, but insect damage can add to this level by opening wounds on the ear and/or by insects carrying fungal spores into the ear. 

Dr. Ed Bynum and I did some work at Lubbock in 2012 that looked at the amount of fumonisin in ears with three different levels of insect damage, and more fumonisin was found with higher levels of insect damage. This was one hybrid of non-Bt corn that we sprayed with different timings of insecticide so as to get the three damage levels. 

Figure 1. Type of ear damage and fumonisin levels associated with that damage, 2012.

This year there is a need to try and determine to what extent insect damage might be contributing to fumonisin levels, but this is not easy to do unless the hybrids have the same genetic background (inherent susceptibility) and are grown in the same field under the same conditions. One seed company has a small plot field trial near Ralls, and they were kind enough to allow me to sample ears from their new hybrid that contains Vip3a and other toxins, and an older Bt type that has fewer toxins but still the same genetic background as the new type of corn. This is a fair comparison for determining the role of insects. The older type of Bt corn averaged 3.6 damaged kernels per ear, while the new corn with Vip3a was essentially undamaged. Even the silks on the new type of corn were intact. The photos below represent what I saw in the field today.

Figure 2. New hybrid with Vip3a and other toxins (top) and older Bt with two toxins (bottom). The new hybrid was essentially without insect damage. In the olde hybrid the insect damage was only at the tip, but fungal growth could proceed through much of the ear.
The same photo as above, but rendered in an infrared simulation that highlights the kernels damaged by fungi.
It is common on the High Plains for nearly every ear of corn to have corn ear worm damage, and this year was no different and not significantly worse. In the opinion of this entomologist, the problems we are having this year are primarily due to environmental conditions that favored Fusarium. Having said that, I have worked with Vip3a corn for six years, and in all that time have only seen two live caterpillars in thousands of ears examined. Vip3a corn is essentially bulletproof for now, and if the goal is to reduce caterpillar damage then this type of corn is the way to do. Of course it is more expensive than older Bt technologies. All of the seed companies put other Bt toxins in with Vip3a. Pioneer sells their Vip3a corn as Optimum Leptra or AcreMax Leptra, Monsanto is now beginning commercial sales for 2018 as Trecepta, and Syngenta calls it Agrisure Viptera or Agrisure Duracade 5222. This is not to say that these hybrids won't have fumonisin problems; the inherent susceptibility might be more or less. It is to say that they will have less insect damage, which our data suggest ultimately play a role in fumonisin.

Update on 10/11/17: Erin Louise Bowers did her Ph.D. dissertation on the benefits of transgenic corn in reducing fumonisin levels. She found that Cry1Ab + Vip3a corn had lower fumonisin levels than other types of Bt corn and non-Bt corn. The work is here. 

Resources for Fumonisin in Corn on the High Plains

Over the past couple of weeks, there have been reports of mycotoxins (Fumonisin) showing up in early harvested corn. If you suspect you have Fumonisin in your field, the process starts before harvest. Click below to read the protocol from the Texas Corn Producers that outlines the process to follow.

Mycotoxin levels on High Plains post threat to region's corn farmers 

It states, in part:

  1. Make insurance provider aware of the suspected issue prior to harvest, storage or destruction of the cornfield.
  2. Adjuster must collect samples of the Representative Sample Area (RSA) prior to the grain entering storage or the destruction of the field. Only the adjuster is approved to obtain samples from the standing crop. 
  3. An Approved Insurance Provider (AIP)-Approved Testing Facility (i.e. laboratory) must complete analysis of these samples. 

What is Fumonisin? 

Understanding Fumonisin Contamination of Corn: Contrasts and Comparisons with Aflatoxin

How Can I Reduce My Risk?

Best Management Practices to Prevent or Reduce Mycotoxin Contamination of Corn in Texas

The Office of the Texas State Chemist has more information on Fumonison Sampling, Testing, and Risk Management in Corn .

Friday, September 8, 2017

Southern High Plains IPM Newsletter, Sept 8

Click here to read this week's newsletter! 

Let me know if you would like to receive the newsletter via email and I will gladly add you to the list. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Friday, August 25, 2017

Southern High Plains IPM Newsletter, Aug 25

Bacterial blight is showing up in cotton and sugarcane aphids show no signs of stopping.

Read more in this week's newsletter.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday, July 21, 2017

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cotton Aphids

Seeing some cotton aphids lately? They typically show up in cotton when insecticides targeting other pests remove natural enemies that keep aphid populations under control. Cotton aphids are also more common in later planted fields. Small numbers of aphids are not a bad thing! They will attract beneficials to the crop that will in turn feed on other pests such as bollworms.

Sometimes, however, the infestations can get quite large and their feeding will rob the plant of the nutrients it needs for boll development. The other issue we encounter is their honeydew, a sugary substance secreted by aphids after they feed on plant sap. The honeydew can get into open bolls and cause sticky cotton, which greatly reduces the quality.

Our cotton entomologist, Dr. Suhas Vyavhare, has put together a fact sheet on cotton aphids and their management. Click here to check it out! 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Southern High Plains IPM Newsletter, Jul 14

Click here to read this week's newsletter! 

If you would like to receive this newsletter via email just let me know and I will gladly add you to the list.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Southern High Plains IPM Newsletter, Jun 30

Here is this week's newsletter.

If you would like to receive the newsletter via email let me know and I will add you to the list.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July! 

Monday, June 26, 2017

SCA found in Lubbock Co

Yesterday, Sunday Jun 25, I found a small colony of sugarcane aphids on sorghum in southern Lubbock. Now is the time to increase scouting efforts if you have any sorghum acreage to keep an eye on this pest.

See this special edition of the Southern High Plains IPM Newsletter of the SCA and check out the Texas Sugarcane Aphid News Blog for management strategies specific to the High Plains!

Call me if you have any questions or concerns.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Southern High Plains IPM Newsletter, Jun 23

Click here to read this week's newsletter.

If you would like to receive the newsletter via email, just let me know and I will add you to the distribution list.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Annual Hailout/Replant/Late-Plant Guide Available

Here is the 15th Annual Hailout/Replant/Late-Plant Guide for the Texas South Plains.

Thanks to Drs. Calvin Trostle and Seth Byrd for putting this helpful document together. It contains information on assessing damaged cotton stands, herbicide precautions, and basic agronomics such as recommended last planting dates for grain sorghum, sunflower, guar, Black-eyed peas, sesame, etc.

If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with me!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Update on Fever Tick Situation in Texas

Here is an update on the Fever Tick Situation from June 12.

Lubbock or Crosby counties are currently NOT on any quarantined list.

For more information on Cattle Fever Ticks you can check out this website from the Texas Animal Health Commission.

Thanks to Dr. Sonja Swiger, Veterinary and Medical Extension Entomologist for this information!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Southern High Plains IPM Newsletter, Jun 9

Click here to read the today's newsletter! 

If you would like to receive the newsletter by email just let me know and I will add you to the list.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Lubbock Scout School May 25

Lubbock Scout School has been scheduled for May 25 this year at the Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension Center. It is open to anyone who wants to learn the basics of scouting crops on the High Plains - primarily cotton, corn, sorghum, and peanuts. This half-day course is great for crop consultants, farmers and their workers, county extension agents and their interns, and anyone in the agricultural industry that wants to learn more about field scouting.

When: Thursday May 25, 8:00am - 12:00pm
Where: Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension Center, 1102 E FM 1294 Lubbock, TX 79403
3 CEUs will be offered
Contact Rae Cox at 806-746-6101 for more information or to RSVP by May 23.

Agenda can be found here.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Dryland Wheat Variety Tour Monday May 8 in Lubbock

A brief walking tour of the 2016-2017 Lubbock Uniform Dryland Wheat Variety Trial, conducted by Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension, will be held from 8:30-9:15am on Monday May 8th. This variety test is located on the Eddie Griffis Farm approximately 0.5 mi East of the Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension Center at Lubbock on the south side of FM1294.

This replicated uniform trial contains 40 entries (varieties) of wheat that are being tested across several locations in Texas. Participants at the meeting will have the opportunity to ask questions regarding the variety selections as well as wheat management decisions. For more information, contact the Lubbock County Extension Office at 806-775-1740 or Dr. Calvin Trostle, Extension Agronomist, at 806-746-6101.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Transform Receives Emergency Exemption for Lygus in Cotton

Transform has received a Section 18 Emergency Exemption for control of plant bugs in cotton. The label is effective April 28, 2017 through October 31, 2017 and includes most Texas counties (Lubbock and Crosby counties are included). 

Transform's label rate for plant bugs is 1.5-2.25 oz/acre. Always follow the label when applying. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Kaput Feral Hot Bait Registration Withdrawn in Texas

The company that manufactures Kaput feral hog bait has withdrawn its registration in Texas. It cites the threat of lawsuits and risk to its business as the reasons.

Kaput was approved earlier this year in response to the extensive damage caused by wild hogs.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Mosquito Workshop in Lubbock Next Week: May 4

It's warming up and mosquito season is upon us!

Questions about mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika and West Nile? Wondering what you can do to keep mosquito numbers down in your backyard?

Then come to the Lubbock Vector Management Workshop next Thursday May 4 at the Texas A&M Agrilife Research Center to learn all about mosquito control this upcoming season.

Register online here or call Heidi Nivens at 254-968-4144. There is NO FEE for this workshop since funding is through the CDC for mosquito education. Lunch will be included.

Pesticide CEUs offered:

  • 5 Agricultural: 2 General, 2 IPM, 1 Laws/Regulation
  • 3 Structural: 1 General, 1 IPM, 1 Laws/Regulation
  • Registered Sanitation CE's and Animal Control CE's

Friday, March 24, 2017

2 Events Next Week: Lunch with Cotton Agronomist AND Local Foods Conference

Lunch with the Cotton Agronomist - Friday Mar 31
10:00 am at Ralls Methodist Church (3 CEUs)
Call 806-675-2347 for more information and to RSVP.

Topics include:

  • Cotton variety selection
  • Cotton planting considerations
  • Weed management
  • Herbicide technology
  • Integrated pest magnement 
  • Soil fertility

Small Farm and Local Foods Conference - Saturday Apr 1
8:00 am at the Texas A&M Agrilife Research and Extension Center
Call 806-775-1740 to pre-register by March 29.

Topics include:

  • High Tunnel Blackberry Production
  • Pomegranates in West Texas
  • Marketing Strategies 
  • Developing a Business Plan
Afternoon will have a tour of the Agrilife Research High Tunnels and local small farm. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Sugarcane Aphids Arrive Early in South Texas, Hidalgo County

Danielle Sekula-Ortiz, Extension Agent-IPM in Weslaco, has found sugarcane aphids in commercial sorghum. She writes,

"My student Alma and I detected sugarcane aphids on commercial sorghum at about the V8 stage down by the river in Hidalgo County. That was on Tuesday, March 21, about 3 weeks earlier than we first found them in a commercial field in 2016. The colonies we found this week were small, containing one winged aphid (alate) and 3 to 5 small nymphs. Sugarcane aphids are barely starting to colonize. But with the current heat and strong winds, the sugarcane aphid may start to populate rapidly and migrate north quickly in our valley sorghum in the next few weeks. Please start scouting your sorghum diligently and prepare for possible spray applications, if need be."

Southern High Plains IPM Newsletter, Mar 23

Click here to read the latest newsletter.

Let me know if you would like to receive the newsletter via email and I will add you to the list.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Brown wheat mite populations are high

If you're seeing tiny black specs on your drought-stressed wheat, it may be brown wheat mites.
Those black specs are actually mites
feeding on the plant tissue.
Brown wheat mites thrive during these currently dry conditions that we're seeing this March and can often be found on dryland wheat. The best time to scout for them is on clear, warm afternoons when they are actively feeding. If it is an especially windy day, it may be hard to see the mites as they will move to the base of the plant. They can also be found on the soil surface, sometimes dispersing from the plants when disturbed. Mites will pierce the plant cells when they feed, which causes a stippling appearance on the leaves. Feeding can cause yellowing of the plants, and heavy damage can cause plants to dry out and die.
Stippling of the leaf caused by brown wheat mite feeding.
Brown wheat mites are characterized by their long front legs, which are twice as long as their body. They're extremely small, approximately the size of a period at the end of this sentence. All mites are female, and can complete their life cycle from egg to adult in 10-14 days. In late April females will start to lay white eggs, signaling a natural decline in the population and meaning control is not necessary. 
Notice the reddish-brown mite in the center of the leaf.
There isn't a solid economic threshold for brown wheat mites, although it is estimated to be several hundred mites per row foot in the early spring. Miticides may not economically control this pest if we don't get a good rainfall and the crop is unable to respond to the treatment. If we get a rain of at least 1/3 inch, it will quickly reduce mite numbers. Turning on irrigation can also accomplish this. Management decisions should be based on the number of mites as well as the crop's ability to recover once mite numbers are lowered.
Wheat damaged by mite feeding and drought stress.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Southern High Plains IPM Newsletter, Mar 10

Click here to read the first newsletter of 2017! 

If you would like to receive the newsletter via email, just let me know and I will add to you the distribution list.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Soil Chemistry and Fertility Survey

The Soil Chemistry and Fertility Research Group under Dr. Katie Lewis at Texas A&M Agrilife-Lubbock is looking for survey participants for their 2017 Soil Management Survey. The survey will be used to develop research and extension programs in soil management and fertility. The survey should only take 8-10 minutes to complete and will be kept completely confidential. The survey can be found here.

If you would prefer a hard copy of the survey or have any questions, please contact Joseph Burke at

Thanks for helping out!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Preparing for Sugarcane Aphid - Early Season

Preparing for Sugarcane Aphid Part 1 - Early Season

As we get ready for the 2017 growing season, we are also getting ready for another year with the sugarcane aphid. This is the first in a series of articles with management recommendations based on our experiences from the last couple of growing seasons. Contributors include Dr. Ed Bynum, Extension Entomologist in Amarillo, Blayne Reed, Extension Agent-IPM in Hale, Swisher and Floyd counties, and Dr. Pat Porter, Extension Entomologist in Lubbock.

Beneficial insects cleaned up the overwintering aphids in 2016

In our 2015/2016 overwintering studies we found successful aphid survival as far north as Tulia. This was a bit of a surprise as our studies the previous year found survivorship only as far north as Hale Center. In 2016 we found SCA on Johnsongrass in Lubbock and Swisher counties in early Mary. At the time we were concerned that it would be a long aphid season, but fortunately there were abundant aphids in 2016 wheat. These served as food sources for the large number of beneficial insects that went into overwintering in the fall of 2015 after feeding on sugarcane aphids. After the initial 2016 aphid finds on Johnsongrass we intensified our search, only to discover that the small sugarcane aphid  populations were no longer to be found. It seems that the beneficial insects finished eating aphids in wheat and then moved over and wiped out the overwintering and colonizing sugarcane aphids on Johnsongrass. 

Eventually sugarcane aphids began to arrive from the east in July, first along the cap in Crosby and Floyd counties. This time they trickled in little by little, and this was fortunately unlike the large clouds of winged aphids that hit the Southern High Plains all at once in 2015. Last year's gradual westward movement of aphids meant that they were relatively predictable.

What about this year?

The abundance of beneficial insects early in the season this year will be important in protecting sorghum by preventing aphid movement from Johnsongrass to sorghum fields. Given that we had far less sorghum in 2016 than in 2015, it is the case that we had few beneficial insects going into overwintering in 2016. In effect, we are starting 2017 with fewer beneficial insects in the system, but fewer sugarcane aphids as well. Some wheat fields in early March had high number of bird cherry-oat aphids and green bugs, but there were high numbers of beneficial insects as well. Other wheat fields did not have many aphids or beneficial insects. Ultimately, aphid infestations on the High Plains will depend on overwintering and the earliness of arrival and severity and movement of sugarcane aphids from downstate. This causes a level of unpredictability for our 2017 sugarcane aphid situation.

Early planting resulted in far less aphid pressure 

Our primary recommendation for 2016 was to plant early so that the sorghum was as far along in growth stage as possible by the time aphids arrived. It is well documented that earlier growth stages can suffer more damage, so the idea was to outrun the aphid as much as possible. This strategy paid big dividends in 2016 for those who employed it.

However, to a less extent in 2015 we were also suggesting that late planted sorghum might suffer less damage because of all of the beneficials in the system that had developed on earlier planted crops. This definitely did not happen in 2016 and the standard and late planted crops were severely damaged by the aphid. So with two years of experience and data, our strongest recommendation is to plant early as to outrun the aphid as much as possible .

Seed treatments are cheap insurance

We recommend that neonicotinoid seed treatments be used on all sorghum. In 2016, the early planted crop would not have benefited from the 45 days of protection afforded by seed treatments. However, if we had not had abundant aphids in wheat to serve as food for the large number of beneficial insects that went in to overwintering, it might have been a different story and the early planted sorghum crop might have been infested in May or June. It is too early to tell whether we will have a similar high number of overwintered beneficials to provide protection in 2017. Fields planted in the normal window or late could expect significant aphid pressure within the 45 day window of seed treatment effectiveness. Also, even though seed treatments gradually play out, they still provide some sub-lethal effects on aphid reproduction beyond 45 days and, depending on chance, seed treatments might mean one insecticide application later rather than two. On balance it makes sense to use treated seed to protect against downside risk of infestations in pre-dowering and flowering growth states. Even for standard and late planted sorghum the ability of seed treatments to provide protection depends largely on when the aphids infest the crop during the season. Therefore, even fields with treatment seed need to be scouted for sugarcane aphid. 

"Resistant or Tolerant" hybrids are still susceptible

None of the so-called resistant or tolerant hybrids on the High Plains have been shown to keep aphid numbers below treatment thresholds. At best they slow the rate of aphid population increase; when the aphids arrive the threshold will most probably be exceeded and insecticides will be necessary. However, our research at Halfway showed that there is a significant economic benefit to using resistant hybrids even though they still need to be sprayed at the normal threshold. As yet we do not have a list of resistant or tolerant hybrids that we have confidence in and it will take three years of replicated data from the High Plains before solid recommendations can be made. At present we recommend that growers consult their local seed company for suggestions on resistant or tolerant hybrids.

Coming in Part II

The next article will address treatment thresholds, insecticide rates and efficacy, and an economic threshold for a potential second insecticide application if the first application failed or could not be made.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Alternative Crops Conference in Lorenzo - March 21

Alternative Crops Conference in Lorenzo March 21!

Come to the Lorenzo Community Center Tuesday March 21 to get information on:

  • Markets
  • Drift prevention
  • Planting considerations
  • Pest control
For more information see this flyer or call the Crosby County Extension Office at 806-675-2347. 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

2017 Mosquito Workshop in Lubbock - May 4

Vector Management Workshop in Lubbock May 4!

This workshop will be full of information on mosquito identification, biology, control tactics, trap use, surveillance, virus testing, Zika, and mosquito control. 5 Agriculture CEU's are offered and 3 Structural CEU's are offered.

There is no charge for this workshop since funding is through a CDC grant focusing on mosquito management education. If you are outside the Lubbock area, the rest of the locations and more information can be found on the flyer here.

You can register for this FREE workshop here or call Heidi at 254-968-4144.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Short High Plains SCA Management Videos

The Texas A&M Agrilife Entomology group on the Texas High Plains just made 9 short videos that encompass the research and experiences learned from the last few growing seasons. Presenters are Blayne Reed, IPM Agent in Hale, Swisher, and Floyd Counties, Dr. Pat Porter, Extension Entomologist in Lubbock, Dr. Ed Bynum, Extension Entomologist in Amarillo, and myself.

Each video is only a few minutes long and full of great information! The videos present data that are applicable only to the Texas High Plains.

1. Aphid overwintering and seasonal abundance (3:41)
2. Early planting is a good idea (3:40)
3. "Resistant" sorghum hybrids and seed treatments (4:23)
4. First insecticide application threshold (3:03)
5. Insecticide application and product efficacy (8:46)
6. Timing of a second insecticide application (4:15)
7. Rate of damage with uncontrolled aphid populations (4:05)
8. Insecticides to prevent sticky harvest problems (5:56)
9. Aphid effects on stalk quality for grazing (3:43)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Cotton Insecticide Performance Trials 2016

Dr. Suhas Vyavhare has just finished putting together the 2016 Cotton Insecticide Performance Trials for the Southern High Plains. It is full of great information on insecticide efficacy trials on thrips, cotton fleahoppers, grasshoppers, and stinkbugs. You can read the report here.

Thanks to Suhas, everyone in District 2 who helped work on these trials, and our cooperating producers!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Southern High Plains RACE Trials Report 2016

Thanks to Dr. Seth Byrd and everyone who worked on the Replicated Agronomic Cotton Evaluation (RACE) trials on the Southern High Plains. This is a great resource as decisions for the 2017 growing season are being made!

You can find the full report here or also at

Monday, February 6, 2017

South Plains Profitability Workshop - Feb 21

A Profitability Workshop will be offered at the Lubbock Texas A&M Agrilife Center February 21 at 9:00am. There will be additional workshops at other locations. The crop spreadsheet budgets that will be used in the workshop will soon be available for 2017. You can download them here starting Feb 10.

The profitability tool is a set of crop spreadsheet budgets tied together in one file to allow quick and easy comparisons of different crops. The primary objective of the workshop is to introduce participants to the budget spreadsheet to compare various alternative crops. Each participant will receive a thumb drive with the budget spreadsheet on it. Feel free to bring your computer if you want to follow the workshop on your own computer.

If you have questions, call Extension Economist Jackie Smith at 806-746-6101. There will be no charge for the workshop and lunch will be provided. Jackie Smith, Jeff Pate, and Will Keeling will be teaching the workshop.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Benefits of Cockroach Control

Dr. Mike Merchant, Agrilife Entomology Specialist in Dallas, wrote the post below on the benefits of cockroach control for his blog, Insects in the City. It's full of great information!

Benefits of cockroach control

Before starting graduate school in entomology I worked as a pest control technician out of college. My accounts included a sprawling, multi-story public housing complex in Seattle, WA. These visits were frustrating to me, because of the difficulty (impossibility) of putting much of a dent in the well entrenched German cockroach population that scurried back and forth among these apartments.

One of my visits, however, was the home of a single mom. It was a short encounter, and I'm not sure I ever saw her again; but I'll never forget the mother's gratitude for my efforts to battle the cockroaches plaguing her and her daughter.  The woman's apartment, unlike many in the community, was uncluttered and very clean. It was obvious she was doing her part to keep cockroaches at bay, something that made my job a lot easier and more effective. Despite the feeling that I wasn't putting much of a dent in the overall cockroach problem in those apartments, I went home that night feeling a little better about my job in pest control.

Improved technology

Two major changes have occurred in cockroach control since the early 1980s.  First, we've learned a lot more about the health impacts of cockroaches over the past 25 years. Besides being unsanitary and capable of spreading disease pathogens, we now have solid evidence to show that cockroaches are major contributors to asthma morbidity, especially among children living in infested homes.  Indeed, the feces and shed exoskeletons of cockroaches have proved to be among the most important indoor asthma causes we know of.  Children who grow up in cockroach infested apartments have higher rates of asthma, more missed school days, and more doctor visits than do their more affluent classmates from cockroach-free homes.

Second, with the discovery of effective baits, we have much better tools for cockroach control today. The insecticides available to me in 1980 were mostly residual sprays and dusts that had to be applied directly to cockroach hiding places.  If counter-tops were not cleared and covered, or cupboards not emptied before I arrived, there was little I could safely do with my Ficam®, diazinon and malathion sprays and dusts.  In addition, many of these sprays were repellent to cockroaches, something that I learned later in grad school greatly reduces their effectiveness against insecticide-avoiding cockroaches.

Today pest management professionals and even homeowners have access to technologies that are safer and vastly superior to the old insecticides.  Containerized and gel baits, in particular, have revolutionized our industry's ability to manage cockroaches.  Although sanitation is still important for cockroach IPM, baits have shown an ability to suppress cockroach numbers even in cluttered and poorly maintained living quarters.

A number of studies have shown over the past 20 years that cockroach control and sanitation efforts could significantly reduce the quantity of cockroach allergens in apartments.  Indeed, the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program recommends reducing cockroach exposure as a critical step to take in reducing asthma risk.

Research news

new study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology out this week is the first to show that cockroach baiting by itself can result in measurable improvements in the health of children. The researchers looked at the apartments of 102 children (aged 5-17 years), all of whose homes had some level of cockroach infestation.  Half of the children were assigned to homes that would be treated by researchers with cockroach baits, and half of the homes were left untreated by researchers.  All of the homes were sampled for cockroaches using Victor® Roach Pheromone Traps, and health indicators were measured for all the children (such as number of school days missed, medication used, days of wheezing, number of nights where children woke up, etc.).

Treatment of homes consisted of placing either Maxforce® FC Magnum, or Advion® cockroach bait gels in areas with evidence of active cockroach infestation.  Those who put out the bait were not trained PMPs, but were research staffers instructed to place baits in the back corners of kitchen cabinets, behind kitchen appliances, and inside bathroom vanities.  No other control methods were used.

The median cockroach numbers were significantly lower in treated homes vs. untreated. By the end of the study none of the baited homes had evidence of cockroach activity, compared to a 20% infestation rate of the untreated homes.

Interesting to me was that after the study began cockroach numbers in the untreated homes went from 100% infested to only 20% infested.  The authors of the study attributed the drop in untreated homes to "study effects".  People whose homes did not get treated, but were being monitored for cockroaches, took extra pains to clean up before the research team arrived, and they conducted additional cockroach control on their own, apart from insecticide baits applied by the researchers. This lead to an almost 85% reduction in trapped cockroach numbers in the control homes.

So it's even more remarkable that, despite the cockroach reductions in homes not receiving bait treatment, researchers still noted significantly better cockroach suppression with bait-treated homes and significant improvements in children's health.  In treated homes, for example, children had 47 fewer days a year with asthma symptoms compared to homes that were not treated with baits. Children in treated homes also had improved lung function and significantly fewer doctor visits compared to untreated homes, despite the relatively small sample size and relatively low cockroach levels in untreated homes.

These results should be carefully noted by the pest control industry.  With readily available, high-quality cockroach baits, and relatively easily taught skills, pest control technicians today can make a significant impact on the health and well-being of customers. In fact, I'm sure that the benefits of a highly skilled technician applying baits would accrue even faster and be more significant compared to untrained applicators.

When I consider how far cockroach control has come since my days with a B&G sprayer, these results are truly amazing.

I've said it before, and will say it again: the work you do as a PMP is very important.  Cockroach management in multifamily housing may not be very glamorous, but few other accounts provide the opportunity to better your customers' lives more.  And that's something that should make you feel even better when you go home at night.