The kudzu bug is a traveler and now calls much of the Southeast home, from the Carolinas to Alabama. And soybean growers need to have eyes on their fields in 2013 to keep tabs on this invasive wonderer, especially in Tennessee. It can put a hurting on yields fast if not treated early.
The kudzu bug is well established in east-central Tennessee, confirmed in Bledsoe, Bradley, Hamilton, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Polk, Rhea, Sequatchie, Monroe, Loudon, Blount, Roane and Knox counties. "A few soybean fields in this part of the state were treated for this pest. It's only a matter of time before this insect moves into areas of middle and west Tennessee where more soybean acres are grown," said Scott Stewart, integrated pest management specialist with the University of Tennessee Extension.
"I'll be surprised if kudzu bugs are not found west of the Tennessee River in 2013. By 2014, it will probably be common in almost all soybean-producing areas in Tennessee. The good news … this is a pest we can effectively manage with scouting and the proper use of insecticides," Stewart said.
The invasive species is native to Asia, but it was first discovered in the U.S. a nine-county area in northeast Georgia in 2009. By September 2012, it was in all of Georgia and the Carolinas, most of east Alabama and north Florida, too.
Scout, scout and scout again
Soybean acres will likely be up across the Southeast, with prices holding steady in the mid-to-high teens per bushel, and well worth protecting against damage. The kudzu bug can, if left untreated, knock yields down 20%, and in extreme cases by 60% in some Georgia trials, said Phillip Roberts, soybean and cotton entomologist with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.