Dr. Mark Abney is a research and Extension entomologist at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus. The primary focus of his research and Extension program is the development and implementation of economically and environmentally sustainable insect management strategies for pests of peanut.
Abney says 2016 has been an interesting year for insect pressure in peanuts. Thrips, which transmit tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV), have had a heavier presence throughout the 2016 growing season. In turn, UGA specialists are seeing more cases of TSWV across the peanut belt. Other issues have varied across the state depending on location and whether farmers are growing irrigated or dryland peanuts.
On dryland peanuts, he is seeing spider mites, lesser cornstalk borers and foliage caterpillars. He has also seen more redneck peanut worms this year than in previous years. He said these are not a real serious issue economically, but they are being seen and reported by growers. Like in previous years, he is seeing the usual three cornered alfalfa hoppers and potato leaf hoppers occasionally; however, they have not become a serious problem. He said he feels the most serious pests he’s seen are the lesser cornstalk borers (mid-season) and two spotted spider mites (late season). Those are starting to really show up in dryland peanuts, and in turn, the fields are not looking good. He believes the yield potential is not looking too good. “It’s tough, because nematicides that we need to use to control those populations are really expensive and it’s hard to make the call to put that money into a crop when your yield potential is low.” He said he is trying to work with growers to make the best decision when it comes to insect pressure.
Dr. Rajagopalbabu Srinivasan is an entomologist at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus. His research focuses on studying thrips, whitefly and aphid-transmitted plant viruses affecting several crops in Georgia, as well as across the Southeast. Specifically in peanuts, he has been studying tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) due to the increased presence over the last two years. His current research is looking at the causes of the flair up of TSWV in recent years. Some of the potential causes he and his team are looking at include plant resistance – resistance to the virus may have decreased in some varieties; changes in the virus – resistance breaking strains; and thrips developing a resistance to insecticides. Because thrips transmit TSWV, they have the potential to be the reason for the virus increase if insecticides are not working well enough to keep thrips at bay. Srinivasan thinks this could certainly be the reason why thrips pressure has increased, along with TSWV, over the past few years. This is one of the main issues he and his team are working to learn more about.