Mexican Rice Borer Threat

Thomas Reagan  |  5/31/2005 10:49:55 PM

T. Eugene “Gene” Reagan and M.O. Way

The Mexican rice borer was introduced in 1980 from Mexico into the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, where it soon became a serious pest of sugarcane. In 1987, the Mexican rice borer was detected in Jackson and Victoria counties of the Texas Rice Belt. In 2000, LSU AgCenter and Texas A&M scientists cooperated in setting out pheromone traps to determine the Mexican rice borer spread since 1987. County extension agents, farmers and personnel of both the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry and the Texas Department of Agriculture participated in monitoring the traps. The pheromone traps used were baited with a synthetic pheromone to attract Mexican rice borer male moths.

Results of the 2000 trapping program in western Louisiana sugarcane and in East Texas show that the Mexican rice borer has moved into five new counties of the Texas Rice Belt—Wharton, Brazoria, Colorado, Waller and Ft. Bend. Two newly infested counties (Harris and Austin) were added in the spring of 2001, placing the Mexican rice borer within 50 miles of East Texas sugarcane, which has been transported for milling into Louisiana.

Sugarcane farmers in southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana are concerned about the possible introduction of the Mexican rice borer. In the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, the Mexican rice borer is still the No. 1 pest of sugarcane. In fact, some fields are not harvested because of heavy damage. Even though trapping data show that the approximately 1,000 acres of sugarcane grown in Texas east of Houston have remained free of the Mexican rice borer, farmers in both states are concerned about this pest. Data from the Lower Rio Grande Valley show that drought-stressed sugarcane is far more susceptible to the Mexican rice borer than healthy sugarcane. Most Louisiana farmers have no facility to irrigate. Cooperative Mexican rice borer studies in variety plots show some potential for resistance with Louisiana varieties, but insecticide work has been less promising.

(This article appeared in the fall 2001 edition of Louisiana Agriculture.)

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