[permaculture] Kudzu bug threatens farms across U.S. South
qazingulaza at gmail.com
Tue Oct 18 11:50:03 EDT 2011
(another fine mess we've gotten ourselves into - when I lived in
Madison I tried to get kudzu established in my yard but couldn't get
it to take...)
Kudzu bug threatens farms across U.S. South
The Associated Press
Date: Tuesday Oct. 18, 2011 6:48 AM ET
BLACKVILLE, S.C. — Kudzu -- the "plant that ate the South" -- has
finally met an insect in the U.S. that's just as voracious. The
trouble is, the so-called "kudzu bug" is also fond of another plant
that's big money for American farmers.
"When this insect is feeding on kudzu, it's beneficial," Clemson
University entomologist Jeremy Greene said. "When it's feeding on
soybeans, it's a pest."
Like kudzu, which was introduced to the U.S. South from Japan in the
late 19th century as a way to fight erosion on the region's worn-out
farmlands, this insect is native to the Far East. And like the
invasive vine, the kudzu bug is running rampant.
Megacopta cribrari, as this member of the stinkbug family is known in
scientific circles, was first identified near Atlanta in 2009. Since
then, it has spread to most of Georgia and North Carolina, all of
South Carolina, and several counties in Alabama.
And it shows no signs of stopping.
Kudzu and soybeans are both legumes. The bug -- also known as the bean
plataspid -- breeds and feeds in the kudzu patches until soybean
planting time, then crosses over to continue the feast, said Tracie
Jenkins, a plant geneticist at the University of Georgia.
University of Georgia researchers have recorded losses as high as 23
per cent in untreated fields.
One thing that concerns researchers is the bug's hardiness. Jenkins
said they may be able to respond to temperature and other
environmental changes by turning a gene or genes on or off, making
them particularly adaptable.
Studies of climate data in the bug's native land are not encouraging.
"I think it's going to be able to dwell anywhere in the United States
that we grow soybeans," says Greene. "So that should be concerning for
some of the states that produce millions of acres of soybeans."
That seems to be where they're going.
In 2010, Georgia produced 6.8 million bushels of soybeans, South
Carolina 10.5 million and North Carolina more than 40 million,
according to the American Soybean Association. Jenkins said there have
been unconfirmed sightings in Tennessee, which produced 44 million
bushels of soybeans last year.
>From there, it's not far to states like Illinois and Iowa, where
production is measured in the hundreds of millions of bushels.
"They're moving north and west," Jenkins says. "And I think they'll keep going."
Especially without an effective way to control them.
Jenkins is trying to pinpoint the country of origin by studying the
DNA of a bacterium, or endosymbiont, that lives in the bug's gut. She
is comparing DNA from the U.S. bugs with samples sent to her from
India, Japan and China.
The samples she's analyzed from the various states have all so far
been traced back to the same maternal line -- meaning this infestation
could have begun with a single gravid or egg-bearing female that
hitched a ride here on a plant or in someone's luggage.
Jenkins is hoping a weapon might emerge from her DNA analysis.
"If there's a gene that's allowing it to adapt really well, if it has
the insect gene, then I might be able to pull that out and use it
against it," she says.
For now, farmers are having to rely on chemicals. So far, the results
have been mixed, at best.
Insecticides that work on other stinkbugs have shown promise. But a
couple of days after an application, the fields are re-infested.
"The problem with this insect is its sheer numbers," said North
Carolina State University pest specialist Jack Bacheler. "It's not
that this thing can't be controlled. But it's probably going to be
costly to do so."
Read more: http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/SciTech/20111018/kudzu-bug-threatens-us-south-soybean-crops-111018/#ixzz1b9IFZxuS
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