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K-State Research and Extension

Agent's vigilance averts sorghum losses

Monitoring crops and mobilizing experts saved southern Kansas sorghum producers millions of dollars in potential crop losses. Zach Simon, K-State Research and Extension agriculture and natural resources agent based in Sedgwick County, knew the sugarcane aphid was making its way toward Kansas from Texas and Oklahoma and that it would threaten sorghum crops once it arrived. 

His vigilance paid off in 2015 when he identified the aphid in the field, confirmed its identity with an entomologist on the Manhattan campus and, “knew right away that we needed to inform producers of what was going on and how to try to manage this pest.”

Simon, a recent K-State alumnus, immediately used every communication channel at his disposal — email, Facebook, Twitter and good, old-fashioned phone calls — to reach out to sorghum producers. Within 20 hours, 86 people from around the state gathered in a farmer’s shed to learn how they could protect their crops. 

Producers were able to speak with K-State entomologists who were on hand to share every bit of information they could about the pest. The experts wanted to ensure no one panicked and tried treating the pest too early, which could have caused more problems and compounded the economic damage. 

The timely sharing of information led many producers to treat their crops effectively for the sugarcane aphid and benefit from a great growing season. Those who did not heed the warnings ended up with major crop losses. 

Kent Winter, president of the Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association, said the number of bushels protected because of Simon’s quick efforts was valued at $38 million.