FALL HARVEST REPORT 2016
A monthly supplement to The Delmarva Farmer
Researcher tries to brace area for kudzu bug advancement
PRINCESS ANNE, Md. — A University of Maryland Eastern Shore researcher is developing new, environmentally sustainable ways to combat the rapidly expanding kudzu bug, a destructive pest for soybean growers across the Southeast.
Over the next two years, Simon Zebelo hopes to develop and evaluate so-called “trap cropping tactics” that would lure and, hopefully, contain kudzu bugs with attractive host plants and to identify plant-based “attractants” that can be used to detect, monitor and manage the stink bug, according to a recent presentation he prepared for the Maryland Soybean Board.
“The research will develop low-input alternative management tactics for (the) kudzu bug that will reduce pesticide use, reduce human health risks and minimize adverse non-target effects of use of toxic insecticides,” Zebelo wrote in a summary. “The project will impact Maryland’s economy by enhancing profitability of soybean production in the region and will ultimately enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.”
To determine the insect’s host plant preference, Zebelo is conducting a “greenhouse cage experiment” that will trap 25 pairs of field-collected adult kudzu bugs starved for 24 hours with different legume varieties such as forddhook lima beans, speck beans, Jackson butterbeans and others.
This will allow Zebelo to determine which varieties the bugs prefer.
Trap cropping is essentially surrounding a crop with an attractive host plant that serves as a barrier. Crops with perimeter traps will be tested at plots in select Maryland counties, the summary said. Ideally, the trap crop will keep the kudzu bugs from invading the soybean crop when they migrate from kudzu plants mid-summer.
“Unlike other stink bugs, (the) kudzu bug shows a low tendency to move from a suitable host,” Zebelo wrote. “Therefore, they are less likely to move into the main crop from the trap crop.”
He will also use an olfactometer to test the responses of both male and female kudzu bugs to different varieties’ odors.
This will also help Zebelo identify “semiochemical attractants” — pheromones or other chemicals released by the plant that the insects use to find a host.
The cage experiment and investigation into kudzu bug attractants will exhaust the study’s first year. He plans to evaluate trap crops next year.
The kudzu bug was first detected in the United States in Georgia in 2009, Zebelo said. Within a year, it leapt to neighboring states. Within two years it jumped to the Carolinas, and within four it was into Delmarva and as far west as Louisiana.
When they move into a soybean crop, they feed on stems and petioles, causing average yield losses of 20 percent. Losses, however, can be as high as 60 percent.
“This exotic invader has the potential to cause severe crop losses,” Zebelo wrote in his summary. “Furthermore, kudzu bug infestation also impacts international trade and commerce.
“As the threat posed by this invasive pest is rapidly increasing, no effective detection or monitoring tools are currently available to track its movement.”