Soybean growers in Arkansas are preparing for a possible invasion by an insect that’s damaging crops throughout the South.
The kudzu bug sucks sap from soybean plants, weakening and stunting the plant's growth. The tiny flying insects have already caused up to 20 percent yield losses in some untreated soybean fields in North Carolina.
Gus Lorenz, with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture says stopping the pests can be difficult.
“When you find them, they’re just in huge numbers. When they get established, you’re going to see thousands and thousands of these things in fields,” said Lorenz. “We can control them but it takes a disruptive [chemical] spray… to get them under control and that kills all our beneficial [insects] as well as the kudzu bugs, which could be a disaster for our growers. We’ll certainly have to be careful about the way we treat it so we don’t disrupt the environment.”
Lorenz says the bugs have already been spotted in eastern Tennessee and Mississippi and it’s only a matter of time before they enter Arkansas.
This is the time of year when growers are doing a lot of planting. However, fluctuations in weather and dropping temperatures can put soybean plants under a lot of stress.
As soybeans struggle to come out of the ground, Lorenz says there’s a lot of above ground and below ground pests that will attack the plants. He says growers should use an insecticide treatment now to protect seedlings from other insects that could hurt yields.