Keep eyes peeled for aphid pest that’s been found in Texas, Louisiana rice

• By Dr. Mo Way, Kate Crumley and Dr. David Kerns •

english grain aphid

English grain aphids and black sooty mold on a Wharton County, Texas, rice plant — photo by Kate Crumley, Texas A&M AgriLife

Just want to alert you rice farmers and crop consultants to be on the look out for the English grain aphid. As you probably know, aphids have piercing-sucking mouthparts, like a rice stink bug. But aphids suck up plant juices from the vascular phloem tissue of plants.

They get rid of excess fluids by excreting a sugary substance called honeydew, which provides food for sooty mold fungus. This fungus is black and coats the leaves of affected plants.

This coating can interfere with photosynthesis ,and sometimes the honeydew can gum up harvesting operations. Aphids have an amazing reproductive potential, so populations can build up quickly. They can produce winged forms, which can travel long distances with the aid of wind. In other words, these critters are good colonizers.

I have not observed English grain aphids attacking rice in the field, but I have observed them in abundance in the greenhouse.

Last week I received a call from a concerned farmer in Wharton County, Texas, who recognized the black sooty mold fungus on his rice crop. I immediately thought the cause may be the rice planthopper, because this exotic species also produces honeydew.

I asked Kate Crumley, who works in Wharton County as a Texas A&M Extension IPM Agent, to check out the situation. She visited the farm and farmer and informed me that the critter was an aphid feeding on the foliage and panicles of the rice crop that was being harvested at the time.

She sent specimens to Dr. David Kerns, Extension IPM coordinator at College Station. David knows his aphids and identified them as English grain aphidsSitobion avenae.

English grain aphids were subsequently reported in rice in Southwest Louisiana.

Next week I plan to visit the farmer and inspect his fields, which are now being ratooned. I will keep you updated.

If you observe sooty mold fungus in your rice crop or if you think you may have any type of insect problem, contact Mo Way at 409-239-4265 or moway@aesrg.tamu.edu.

If you farm in Louisiana, contact Blake Wilson, LSU AgCenter entomologist, at 225-642-0224 or BWilson@agcenter.lsu.edu
There is a possibility this aphid may infest the ratoon crop.