Yield losses of 20% from kudzu bug infestations are common in untreated soybean fields.
Kudzu, commonly called the "vine that ate the South," has been despised in the region for more than 100 years. Now, soybean farmers there face a new foe with a similar name, the kudzu bug. The pest has spread through much of the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast and Mid-South.
While kudzu bugs get their name because they feed on kudzu, they have a voracious appetite for soybeans as well. They feed on the plants by inserting piercing mouth parts into the soybean leaves and stems to suck the nutrient-laden sap.
"The more bugs in the crop, the poorer the seed weight of your soybeans," says Jeremy Greene, a Clemson University Extension entomologist.
Researchers first identified the kudzu bug in 2009 in northeast Georgia. They speculate the pest snagged a ride on a plane from its native home in Asia.
Its ability to hitchhike has enabled kudzu bug to develop into a significant economic pest during the past four years in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
Average yield loss for untreated soybeans has been estimated at 20% in South Carolina and Georgia. Losses as high as 50% have been reported.
Greene says he wouldn’t be surprised if the pest reaches the Midwest.
"If it can stand the winters, I think it will eventually be up there," he speculates. "It will be interesting to see how far it can go in the colder climates."
- Late Spring 2014