How to Manage Aphids in Wheat

FBN Network

Sep 05, 2023

Aphids (Diuraphis noxia) are tiny insects that feed on the sap of wheat plants, depriving them of essential nutrients and decreasing the plant’s ability to photosynthesize. This can result in: 

  • Stunted growth

  • Reduced yield 

  • Worsened grain quality with smaller, less plump grains and lower protein content

  • Viral disease transmission, such as barley yellow dwarf virus

In severe cases, uncontrolled aphid populations can lead to yield losses of up to 30%. 

Mary Burrows, Montana State University,

This guide will outline: 

  • How to identify aphids

  • Regions typically affected by aphids

  • Timing of aphid infestations 

  • How to control aphids using natural and chemical strategies 

[RELATED: Using a Fungicide to Protect Your Wheat Crop]

How to Identify Aphids

To effectively manage aphids, it is important to be able to identify them. Luckily, unlike other pests, aphids move at a leisurely pace, making them easier to spot and identify. 

Aphids are small insects, measuring around 1 to 3 millimeters in length, with soft bodies and a range of colors including green, yellow and black. They have long antennae protruding from their heads and two tube-like structures called cornicles on their hind end, which they use to release defensive substances. 

Mourad Louadfel,

Distorted leaves, such as curling or cupping, are clear indicators of aphid feeding. Aphids inject toxic saliva into the leaves as they feed, leading to deformities and curling. 

Aphids also excrete a sugary substance called honeydew, which can accumulate on the leaves and stems of wheat plants, attracting ants and further damaging crops. Regularly inspecting wheat fields for sticky honeydew serves as a clue to the presence of aphids. Identifying and addressing this issue early on can prevent further damage and ensure a healthy wheat harvest.

Regions Affected by Aphids

Aphids can be found worldwide, but they tend to flourish in regions with mild winters and moderate temperatures during the growing season. 

Areas such as the Midwest and Great Plains in the United States, as well as various wheat-growing regions in Europe, Asia and Australia, have a history of aphid infestations. These regions provide suitable climate conditions and susceptible crops, creating an ideal environment for aphids to thrive.

[RELATED: Managing Spring and Summer Weeds in your Winter Wheat]

Timing of Aphid Infestations

Aphids can be a persistent problem throughout the entire growing season, with their population peaking in late spring and early summer. Warm and dry weather conditions during this period provide optimal conditions for their reproduction and growth. 

How to Manage Aphids 

Ladybugs and lacewings, which are natural predators of aphids, can help keep their populations in check. Seeing these two insects in a wheat field often indicates that the ecosystem is in balance and crops are being protected naturally.

Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University,

By encouraging the presence of these natural enemies through habitat diversification strategies, such as planting flowering plants and providing shelter, farmers can enhance their population and reduce the need for chemical interventions

However, in some cases, more aggressive chemical solutions are necessary — just remember to closely monitor aphid numbers using visual inspections, sticky traps or suction samplers and take action only when their population exceeds established threshold levels. 

Insecticides containing active ingredients such as pyrethroids, neonicotinoids, or organophosphates have been proven effective against aphids. These insecticides either directly kill aphids or disrupt their feeding and reproductive abilities. 

Keep in mind that aphids have the ability to develop resistance to insecticides over time, reducing their effectiveness. To combat this issue, rotate between different chemical groups with different modes of action to prevent aphids from adapting and developing resistance. 

Aphid Crop Protection from FBN Direct®

Proactively scouting for and responding to pest presence in your fields will help reduce potential crop damage and improve yield. FBN Direct has a wide variety of effective insecticides to help address pest pressures and keep your operation on track.

With transparent pricing, straightforward online ordering, detailed product labels and fast direct-to-farm delivery, FBN Direct can help you get the products you need to protect your crops. 

Related Resources:

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FBN Network

Sep 05, 2023

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