By JACK WEATHERLY
The attendance at a forum last week on the redbanded stink bug in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas soybean crops was commensurate with the scope of the infestation.
In other words, big.
That’s according to Dr. Fred Musser, professor of entomology at Mississippi State University.
There were 130 at the MSU Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville, Musser said. Also, 80 lines were engaged in the live stream of the forum, he said.
“It is infesting most of the soybeans in Mississippi,” Musser said on Tuesday. The last outbreak of the pest in the state was in 2009, but that was followed by a cold winter, which meant that it was not tracked closely as a major blip on the agricultural radar.
Last winter was mild, which allowed the insect to make inroads much deeper and farther north.
Dr. Jeff Davis of the Louisiana State University Ag Center, said the pest has been found in “threshold” numbers as far north as the Missouri Bootheel this year.
Musser said that whereas other kinds of stink bugs can be controlled with one spraying, the redbands require three or four applications.
The redband is the most voracious variety, with an unusually large mouth that allows it to do more damage to the soybean crop, which was Mississippi’s most valuable, valued at $1 billion in 2016 and this year constitutes two-thirds of all the row-crop acreage in the state.
“It is the most dangerous stink bug,” Davis said.
Dr. Angus Catchot, MSU Extension entomologist, said at the forum that in 2009 about 20 counties were sprayed for redbands, which arrived late that growing season.
But this year, the bugs arrived early, and the longer they stay the worse it is for the crop.
Another concern is that crimson clover put out along highways to control erosion is a haven for the pest, said Davis.
“It’s almost like the Red Bull for the redbanded stink bug,” he said, adding that discussions are being held about the conflict.