Delta Farm Press Logo

Billbugs posing new challenge in row rice

As more growers move to row rice, bill bugs may cause more damage.

Forrest Laws

November 22, 2021

Dr. Nick Bateman says billbugs are not a new pest in rice. Growers have seen them in levee rice for years and on the levees or in rice patties they can’t keep enough water on to keep them from drying out during the growing season.

What’s new is that many growers are trying furrow-irrigated or row rice where portions of the field may remain dry as water moves across the field or out the end of the field if a levee isn’t in place to retain the water.

“Once we moved into row rice production over the past five or six years, we’re leaving the top end of the field fairly dry most of the season,” said Bateman, Extension entomologist with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “It will get a little damp, but, for the most part, it never has a standing flood on it.

“That’s opening a window for billbug to be able to move in and cause a lot of damage. What we’ve seen over the past couple of years is, in a bad situation like we’ve had in these plots, you can look for a 25- to 35-bushel loss at least in the upper part of the field.”

Bateman and Chase Floyd, a Ph. D. candidate at the University of Arkansas, were speakers during a presentation for the University’s virtual Rice and Soybean Field Day. The presentation was recorded in University of Arkansas test plots at Haigwood Farm near Newport, Ark.

Monitoring system

“Since there isn’t a lot of data on rice billbug, we wanted to start foundationally and figure out a good monitoring system for rice billbug,” said Floyd. “One of our main goals was to determine how they’re migrating into the field. We designed flight and ground active traps for the insects.”

Floyd said the data shows the ground active tests work best for collecting rice billbug. “We used different colors to see if there was a color attractant. Pink seems to be the best color, but we’re not 100 percent sure on that. We’re more confident in that they just like to be under something safe.

“If you want to start monitoring for rice billbug, it appears the five-gallon bucket is the best method. But you do need to have some sort of vegetation under the bucket.”

Based on surveys over the last three years, the target growth stage for monitoring for the pest is the third and fourth tillers for the rice. “We also did a collection of traps based on the dates to monitor rice billbugs,” he said. “Typically, we see our highest influx the last week in May to the first week in June. About 10 to 14 days later is when you’ll go out into the field and start seeing the damage.”

About the Author(s)

Forrest Laws

Forrest Laws spent 10 years with The Memphis Press-Scimitar before joining Delta Farm Press in 1980. He has written extensively on farm production practices, crop marketing, farm legislation, environmental regulations and alternative energy. He resides in Memphis, Tenn. He served as a missile launch officer in the U.S. Air Force before resuming his career in journalism with The Press-Scimitar.

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like