Tim Reed, 2013 Friends of IPM Award Winner
IPM Educator

When kudzu bug started spreading to Southeastern states, Extension entomologists in Alabama wanted to stay a step ahead of it. So to find out what insects were present in the state, Auburn University Extension Specialist Tim Reed developed an insect pest survey.

Reed, who received a Friends of Southern IPM Educator Award at the Southeastern Branch of the Entomological Society meeting on March 5 in Baton Rouge, LA, wanted to do the insect pest survey as an IPM planning tool. Knowing what pests were most prevalent in the state would allow him and his colleagues to better alert growers to what to watch for.

Reed and five other entomologists randomly selected 31 counties, out of the state’s 67, in which to administer the survey. Specialists worked with crop consultants to scout and trap insects to determine the most prevalent species.

Results indicated that soybean looper was the most abundant pest—found in every county sampled—followed by alfalfa hopper. Kudzu bug and podworms, which were serious pests in surrounding states, were not as problematic for Alabama farmers.

The survey not only told specialists and consultant the relative abundance of various pests, but based on each pest’s biology and usual movement, specialists could predict where the pests would move over the course of the season. The ability to track the pests gave farmers the ability to be proactive in their IPM programs and use insecticide sprays judiciously.

“This year, farmers will modify how they spray soybeans,” says Reed. “They’ll be able to better plan the number of applications and the timing of sprays, and decide whether to apply something to slow the development of a lepidopteron pest and how they will protect against caterpillar defoliation.”

The ability to track movement of soybean loopers will give northern soybean farmers an edge this year.

“Loopers will migrate north,” says Reed. “Once they pick up, we can tell how long it will be before they’ll show up in the northern counties.”

In addition to knowing when to spray, farmers will also have the advantage of knowing what specific insecticide to spray. Alabama Cooperative Extension keeps records on product efficacy; however, they will be able to retest the effectiveness of certain products on soybean looper now that they know that it is present in the state.

Kudzu bug, which has proved to be a bane to soybean growers throughout the region, was found in only 6 of the 31 counties surveyed. Although it is not yet a crucial problem for Alabama, the pest was found in soybeans for the first time. Prior to the survey, specialists had found it only in kudzu. Reed said that in four counties, kudzu bug populations had reached levels that threatened yields.

Thanks to the pest survey, growers now have an advantage in managing kudzu bug and now know specifically what pests they will most likely be facing each season.