Chuck Denney-Narrator (UT Institute of Agriculture)
Two dozen swipes and UT Extension Entomologist Scott Stewart scoops up a net full of trouble.
Nat Sound of Dr. Scott Stewart
“I can already tell you there’s a number of stink bugs in there because you can smell ‘em.”
Hold your nose if you’re human. Hold on to your wallet if you’re a farmer. Stink bugs, both green and brown, are feasting in our fields and costing producers yield and profits. And here’s the irony – when we got rid of one pest a few years ago, it enabled stink bugs to make their present felt.
Dr. Scott Stewart (UT Extension)
“In the last eight or ten years, we’ve eradicated the boll weevil in cotton, we’ve gone to some softer chemistries and BT technologies. We’ve reduced the number of sprays we’re making, and that unfortunately has made a little window for stink bugs and plant bugs to creep in.”
Squash one of these critters and you’ll quickly smell how they get their name. They have glands that produce a defensive compound, which has a strong odor to repel predators. But it’s more than just a smelly situation for farmers. Stink bugs only live a short time, but are destructive from day one. Soybean seeds and cotton bolls are a particular delicacy.
Barry Lake (Hardeman County Producer)
“They sting the boll and attack the seed in the boll and usually abort the boll, and also they’re bad on soybeans because they’ll sting into the soybeans too.”
Farmers like Barry Lake have to spend more on pesticides to try to keep harmful pests from ruining crops.
“We’re having to change our chemistry on our chemicals a little now to get something a little stronger to work on the mature stink bugs.”
That’s not the only bug in the system in Tennessee agriculture. UT Extension agent Ranson Goodman in Henry County works with Dr. Stewart to monitor the southwestern corn borer. These traps tell them how heavy the infestation might be.
Ranson Goodman (UT Extension-Henry County)
“Henry County, for some reason, we raise corn borers very well here. When other people are running maybe 40 to 60, we’re running 400. We decided this year, especially with the year we’re having, we decided to start running our traps earlier, maybe even a month earlier than we normally do.”
When it comes to threatening pests, farmers have little choice but to spend, spray and hope it works. But if there’s something growing in a field, chances are there’s an insect that would like to eat it.
NOTE: UT Extension experts say we see pests every year in crops. But this year we saw them much earlier in the growing season, and that may be because of the mild winter we just had.