The sugarcane aphid, Melanaphis sacchari (Zehntner) (Hemiptera: Aphididae), has become a major pest of grain sorghum, Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench, in the United States in recent years. Feeding by large densities of sugarcane aphids causes severe damage, which can lead to a total loss of yield in extreme cases. Our objective was to determine the effect of grain sorghum planting date on sugarcane aphid population dynamics and their potential to reduce yields. We conducted field experiments from 2015 to 2017 in which an aphid-susceptible grain sorghum hybrid was planted at four different dates, which encompassed the typical range of planting dates used in Arkansas production systems. Plots were either protected from sugarcane aphid feeding using foliar insecticide sprays, or left untreated to allow natural populations of sugarcane aphids to colonize and reproduce freely. Planting date impacted both the magnitude and severity of sugarcane aphid infestations, with the highest population densities (and subsequent reductions in sorghum yield) generally occurring on plots that were planted in May or June. Sugarcane aphid feeding reduced yields in the untreated plots in two of the four planting date categories we tested. Earlier planting generally resulted in less sugarcane aphid damage and improved yields compared with later planting dates. While the effect of planting date on sugarcane aphid populations is likely to vary by region, sorghum producers should consider grain sorghum planting date as a potential cultural tactic to reduce the impact of sugarcane aphid.
integrated pest management