Just want to alert you rice farmers and crop consultants to be on the look out for an aphid…English grain aphid. As you probably know, aphids have piercing-sucking mouthparts, like a rice stink bug. But aphids suck up plant juices from the vascular phloem tissue of plants. They get rid of excess fluids by excreting a sugary substance called honeydew which provides food for an organism called sooty mold fungus. This fungus is black and coats the leaves of affected plants. So, this coating can interfere with photosynthesis and sometimes the honeydew can gum up harvesting operations. Aphids have an amazing reproductive potential, so populations can build-up quickly. They can produce winged forms which can travel long distances with the aid of wind. So, these critters are good colonizers.
I have not observed English grain aphids attacking rice in the field, but I have observed them in abundance in the greenhouse. Anyway, last week I received a call from a concerned farmer in Wharton Co. who recognized the black sooty mold fungus on his rice crop. I immediately thought the cause may be the rice planthopper because this exotic species also produces honeydew. I asked Kate Crumley, who works in Wharton Co. as a Texas A&M Extension IPM Agent, to check out the situation. She visited the farm and farmer and informed me that the critter was an aphid feeding on the foliage and panicles of the rice crop which was being harvested at the time. She sent specimens to Dr. David Kerns, Extension IPM Coordinator, at College Station. David knows his aphids and identified them as English grain aphids…Sitobion avenae. Next week I plan to visit the farmer and inspect his fields which are now being ratooned. I will keep you updated. If you observe sooty mold fungus in your rice crop or if you think you may have any type of insect problem, contact me at 409-239-4265 or email@example.com. There is a possibility this aphid may infest the ratoon crop.
So, this is a good example of how research and Extension work hand-in-glove to help you farmers. Texas A&M is a Land Grant University with 3 missions…teaching, research and Extension (extend research results to clientele). This model was created in 1862 by Abe Lincoln and has survived the test of time! The teaching component includes training undergraduate and graduate students, many go on to serve the Texas and US rice industries.