Wednesday, October 19, 2011

'Kudzu bug' devouring soybeans across South, quickly migrating toward Midwest soy land

Kudzu has been steadily swallowing Southern forests for decades, but it may have finally met its match in insect form: the "kudzu bug." The small, brown, member of the stink bug family is extremely voracious, which is a good thing when it feasts on kudzu. However, when soybean season starts and it migrates to those fields, the tiny bug causes big problems for farmers.

The bug comes from Asia and was first discovered close to Atlanta in 2009, reports Allen Breed of The Associated Press. Since the first spotting, it has spread to most of Georgia and North Carolina, all of South Carolina and several counties in Alabama. These states, along with Tennessee where there have been confirmed sightings of the bug, are huge producers of soybeans, but not as big as Illinois and Iowa, where production reaches hundreds of millions of bushels a year and where researchers fear the bug will spread. The bugs don't simply feed on the pods or leaves of the plant; they suck on the stems and leaf petioles, effectively "draining the life out" of them and preventing them from feeding, which reduces the number of pods per plant. The damage is not very visible, but will reduce yields.

Scientists are trying to find ways to stave off the invasion, but are discovering the bug is very resilient. They've been spotted on mountains, the coast and windows at the top of Atlanta skyscrapers. "I think they'd be able to dwell anywhere in the United States that we grow soybeans," Clemson University entomologist Jeremy Greene told Breed. Farmers are relying on insecticides used to kill other stink bug varieties without success. Just days after spraying, fields are re-infested with the kudzu bug. (Read more)

1 comment:

Myra Bonhage-Hale said...

Wouldn't it be Karma (the stink bug is from Asia with few apparent enemies here) if it ate the GMO soy and devastated the crop and killed itself too?