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Plantwise Technical Factsheet

rice root aphid (Rhopalosiphum rufiabdominalis)

Host plants / species affected
Avena sativa (oats)
Brassica oleracea var. botrytis (cauliflower)
Cucurbita pepo (marrow)
Eleusine (goosegrass)
Gossypium (cotton)
Hordeum vulgare (barley)
Iris (irises)
Lolium (ryegrasses)
Nicotiana tabacum (tobacco)
Orobanche (broomrape)
Oryza sativa (rice)
Panicum (millets)
Phaseolus vulgaris (common bean)
Phragmites (reed)
Poaceae (grasses)
Prunus (stone fruit)
Prunus mume (Japanese apricot tree)
Saccharum officinarum (sugarcane)
Solanum lycopersicum (tomato)
Solanum melongena (aubergine)
Solanum tuberosum (potato)
Sorghum bicolor (sorghum)
Triticum (wheat)
List of symptoms/signs
Roots  -  external feeding
Stems  -  external feeding
Whole plant  -  discoloration
Whole plant  -  distortion; rosetting
Whole plant  -  wilt

In rice, plants wilt and die if large numbers of R. rufiabdominalis occur on the upper parts of roots. The usual effect of aphid feeding is less extreme, however, with plants becoming yellow and distorted.

Prevention and control

Chemical Control

Systemic insecticides are commonly used to control R. rufiabdominalis (e.g. Misra et al., 1985; Barwal et al., 2003; Chung, 2010; Chandel et al., 2013) but care must be taken when selecting pesticides as some of the systemic insecticides that have been used against R. rufiabdominalis are now restricted under international agreements (see for a list of restricted chemicals). Chemical control in rice is not generally successful (Yano et al., 1983), except for certain soil applications which also kill the associated ant fauna (Miyahara et al., 1968). The best time to control R. rufiabdominalis on Japanese apricots was when the leaves were still tender and developing 3-5 leaves (Chung BuKeun, 2010).                            

Biological Control

Effective control of R. rufiabdominalis on squash in greenhouses in Florida was obtained using the fungal pathogen Lecanicillium lecanii (Etzel and Petitt, 1992). Little information is available concerning natural enemies of this aphid, largely due to its subterranean habitat. Yano et al. (1983) described natural enemies of rice aphids in general, some of which may be predators of varying degrees of effectiveness. The aphelinids Aphelinus wenshanus and Aphelinus rhopalosiphiphagus have been reported as parasitoids of R. rufiabdominalis on dryland rice in Yunnan, China, and attempts were made to rear A.  rhopalosiphiphagus in the laboratory (Yang and Chen, 1995; Wei et al., 2005).

Host-Plant Resistance

Rice cultivars have been shown to have different levels of resistance to R. rufiabdominalis. Dani and Majumdar (1978) found the Indian rice cultivar Jaya to be resistant to R. rufiabdominalis. In a study in India, wheat cultivars GW 173 and CPAN 2004 were most susceptible to R. rufiabdominalis, while J 405, J 486 and Swati were the least susceptible (Rajesh Verma et al., 1995). In a study in Pakistan, wheat cultivar Indus-66G was the most resistant to aphids, including R. rufiabdominalis (Kanher et al., 2004).

Cultural Control

Late sowing of rice is recommended and application of ammonium sulphate and manure considered useful (Grist and Lever, 1969). Late plantings of winter wheat in the northern Great Plains had lower populations of R. rufiabdominalis and a lower incidence of BYDV than early plantings (Hesler et al., 2006). The practice of increasing the seedling rate to compensate for crop loss has declined with increased insecticide use (Grist and Lever, 1969). In India, seed potato crops were kept practically aphid free by planting them at high altitudes (> 2000 m), and the number of overwintering eggs of aphids was reduced by the application of defoliants to peach trees in the autumn and by pruning, with the subsequent destruction of leaves and twigs (Chandel et al., 2013). Tanaka (1961) discussed other cultural practices. 


R. rufiabdominalis is an economic pest of upland rice, particularly in Japan, but is not a pest of irrigated rice anywhere in the world (Grist and Lever, 1969). Injury to upland rice can be severe in Japan, with losses of up to 50-70% (Yano et al., 1983). Occurrence was related to the cultivars of upland rice in China, where aphids caused light damage at the seedling stage and heavy damage at the tillering stage (Ding, 1985). Generally, aphids cause more serious damage during the early growth stages (Yano et al., 1983).

R. rufiabdominalis infests the roots of a range of other crops worldwide, including barley in Turkey, wheat in India, North America and Africa (Doncaster, 1956; Singh et al., 1994, Beant Singh et al., 2014), aubergines in Spain (Melia, 1986), cotton in Africa and the USA (Doncaster, 1956; Duviard and Mercadier, 1973; Stoetzel et al., 1996), seed potatoes in India (Chandel et al., 2013) and sugarcane in Japan and India (Setokuchi, 1993Shukla and Sinha, 2009). It is reported fairly infrequently on cereals, but its subterranean habitat may mean that it is frequently overlooked.

R. rufiabdominalis has become a pest of plants grown in hydroponic systems in greenhouses, in the USA and elsewhere (e.g. Etzel and Petitt, 1992), and under these circumstances can infest plants outside its usual host range. R. rufiabdominalis was first reported infesting greenhouse tomatoes and sweet peppers (Capscium annuum) in Ontario, Canada, in 2004-2005 (Zilahi-Balogh et al., 2005) and greenhouse potatoes in Syria in 2007 (Fujiie et al., 2008).

R. rufiabdominalis was recorded undergoing a complete life cycle, including bisexual generations and overwintering on Prunus armeniaca (apricot) and Prunus domestica (common plum) in northern Italy in 2013. This is the first record of holocyclic populations of R. rufiabdominalis outside the East Asian region and indicates an increased threat of the aphid to graminaceous crops, and possibly stone fruits, in temperate Europe (Rakauskas et al., 2015).

R. rufiabdominalis is a vector of Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) (Paliwal, 1980; Jedlinski, 1981) and Cereal yellow dwarf virus (CYDV) (Hadi et al., 2011), which contributes to its economic importance as a pest of barley in Turkey and North America. Singh (1977) presented evidence of R. rufiabdominalis being a vector of Maize mosaic virus in India. R. rufiabdominalis has also been reported to transmit Sugarcane mosaic virus (SCMV) in India (Shukla and Sinha, 2009) and is thought to be a non-persistent vector of Cucumber mosaic virus, which causes serious damage to tobacco in some areas in Taiwan (Chen and Weng, 1969). In preliminary trials in Hawaii, R. rufiabdominalis transmitted Sugarcane yellow leaf virus (ScYLV) from infected wheat seedlings to wheat and oats, but was not a vector of ScYLV in sugarcane plantations (Schenck and Lehrer, 2000; Lehrer et al., 2007).


Related treatment support
External factsheets
NIPI IPM guidelines, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, 2014, English language
IRRI Factsheets, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), English language
Bayer CropScience Crop Compendium, Bayer CropScience, English language
Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia Farmnotes, Government of Western Australia, 2005, English language
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