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Sorghum shoot fly

Atherigona soccata
  • Plant mixtures of cultivars with different levels of resistence and similar stage of maturity to minimise losses
  • Sow early (7-10 days before the onset of monsoon rains) so that crop growth does not coincide with high shoot fly populations
  • Encourage high density growth to reduce shoot fly damage:
    • Use a high seeding rate. Seedlings under high planting density have narrow leaves, which are less attractive for egg laying
    • Delay thinning of crop
  • Grow a healthy crop to reduce shoot fly damage:
    • Grow seedlings in a nursery under high planting density before transplating
    • Apply nitrogenous and phosphatic fertlizers. Do not use cattle manure as the resulting odour may attract shoot flies
    • Maintain optimum irrigation
  • Remove and burn weeds which act as hosts of shoot fly, such as grasses: Johnson grass, (Sorghum halepense), Brachiaria, Cynodon, Echinochloa, Eragrostis, Panicum, Pennisetum, Setaria
  • Encourage natural enemies population (egg parasitoids and predators) by decreasing the amount of pesticides used in the fields
  • Rotate or intercrop with cotton, groundnut, sunflower, sugarcane or legumes
  • Collect and burn sorghum stubbles
  • Let the land lie fallow for 2 months in the warmer part of the year. This reduces the carryover and build-up of pest populations from one season to the next
  • Soil may contain pupae so should not be moved around
  • Additional relevant crops: maize, finger millet, bullrush millet, rice, wheat
  • Look out for symptoms:
    • Young plants: Damage at 5-30 days after seedling emergence. The central leaf dries up forming a deadheart - it becomes thin and papery, and wraps around the other leaves. The damaged leaf can be pulled out easily and produces a rotting smell
    • Older plants (>30 days after seedling emergence, >35 to 45 cm in height): Do not produce deadheart symptoms. They may have damaged leaf margins or partially damaged panicles with a portion which is rotting or dried up
    • Plants: Produce axillary tillers due to stress
  • Insect:
    • Eggs: Laid on the underside of seedling leaves or on young tillers. 1-3 eggs are laid per leaf. They are white, elongated and measure 0.8 x 0.2 mm
    • Larva: 8-10 mm long when full grown, whitish/yellowish in colour. They crawl down inside the sheath and bore into the base of the young shoot, killing the growing point and youngest leaf (causing deadheart)
    • Pupa: Reddy-brown, 8-10 mm long. Found in the base of the dead shoot or in the soil
    • Adults: rest on the underside of leaves. About 4 mm long and look like small house flies
  • Assess infestation level using yellow sticky traps or a fishmeal baited square pan/plastic jar to catch adults. Alternatively, count the number of infested "hearts" in young sorghum plants
  • Shoot flies are abundant during the rainy season under moderate temperatures and high humidity
  • Check crop for shoot fly damage while thinning and destroy damaged plants

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