USDA Finds Green Method to Control Stink Bugs

John DavisInsect Control, Research, USDA

sorghumgrass1Federal researchers have found a green way to control stink bugs. This article from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says an entomologist in Georgia figured out that certain plants could keep out stink bugs that attack crops in the southeastern United States, without using insecticides that could kill the good bugs.

Many farmers in Georgia plant corn each spring, then peanuts and then cotton, often near each other or side-by-side. The farmers control stink bugs with broad-spectrum insecticides, which kill not only stink bugs but also beneficial insects.

Patricia Glynn Tillman, who is with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Crop Protection and Management Research Unit, collected stink bugs from corn, peanut and cotton fields for 6 years and studied a number of strategies designed to control them. ARS is USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency, and this research supports the USDA priority of promoting sustainable agriculture.

In one study, Tillman and her colleagues placed nectar-producing buckwheat plants, sorghum Sudan grass (an annual grass that grows to about 8 feet), and two different-sized plastic sheets (about 6 feet high and about 2 feet high) between peanut and cotton fields. The grass and plastic sheets were introduced to see if they would prevent stink bugs from migrating from low-growing peanut plants into cotton. She found that the plastic and the grass were effective, as long as the barriers were at least as high as the cotton (4.5 feet). She also found that the buckwheat attracted Trichopoda pennipes, a beneficial insect that reduced the number of stink bugs in nearby cotton. Results were published September 1, 2014, in the Journal of Pest Science.

Other work included putting potted milkweed plants along the edges of cotton fields in peanut/cotton production areas, and researchers found that not only did they control the stink bugs, but the milkweed was a nice attractor for Monarch butterflies.