Weather for Lubbock, TX

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.