Tomato growers seeing bumper crop of stinkbugs
UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — Maryland tomato growers are reporting more stinkbug damage than usual over the last month, an Extension agent said.
Jerry Brust, a University of Maryland Extension vegetable specialist in Prince George’s County, said he received emails and photos from four farmers, which is likely just a sample of the total number of growers dealing with the pests. He’s also seen them in his fieldwork.
“That’s a lot,” he said.
On two farms, bugs damaged 15 to 20 percent of the tomato crop, Brust said, and they’ve arrived on fields earlier than usual. Stinkbugs usually become an issue on Maryland produce fields in July and August.
“I don’t know if that’s because of the heat, climate change, I don’t know,” he said. “If (we’d had) a real mild winter, I wouldn’t be as surprised.”
The stinkbugs are statewide and have affected varieties, such as grape tomatoes, which they usually avoid, Brust said. He received reports from the Eastern Shore, northern Maryland near the Pennsylvania border and Southern Maryland.
Stinkbug damage typically reveals itself as a cloudy spot on a tomato after the insect feeds on it, Brust said in a report published in the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension’s weekly crop newsletter on July 5. The damage on green fruit appears as a whitish blemish with a black dot in the center and indistinct borders.
Green, brown and Brown Marmorated stinkbugs can be difficult to notice because they spend most of the day inside the plants, he said. Unfortunately, there aren’t any reliable methods to monitor the insects, but some pesticides, including pyrethroids, Venom and Scorpion, can reduce damage, Brust said.
Organic growers can try Entrust, Azera and Pyganic to control nymphs but not adults, he said. Stinkbugs don’t typically move to the edges of a tomato plant.
Farmers “need to concentrate those sprays in the center of the plant,” he said. “High volume and high pressure.”
The number of reports, while high, isn’t unprecedented, Brust said.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925