Pests can cause devastating impacts to a hemp crop. The first step to tackle a pest problem is to identify the unwelcome intruder. A new UF/IFAS hemp pest identification tool takes the guesswork out of identifying some of the potential Florida hemp pests.
The hemp pest identification guide, available for purchase through the UF/IFAS Extension Bookstore, includes 20 of the most common hemp pests found in Florida.
“Scouting for pests is the foundation for managing them economically and effectively,” said Lance Osborne, UF/IFAS entomologist. “Each pest species requires different management inputs, especially if we are using biological controls. Knowing which pests are present dictates the control measures to help mitigate any damage they could cause.”
“Hemp is still a relatively new crop for Florida, so we are watching out for pests to emerge,” said Zachary Brym, UF/IFAS hemp project lead scientist and assistant agronomy professor. “There are not many pesticides approved for use on hemp, so techniques for managing these pests requires early detection.”
Hemp material is often shipped in from other states and identifying any pests upon receipt of the plant material is critical to prevent a major outbreak. The most worrisome pests may be the cannabis aphid and the hemp russet mite. Both of these species are not formally established in Florida, which means they are actionable pests and would require a quarantine period and certified approval to move them until pests are eliminated.
“Unfortunately, a pest management strategy is often not established until it is too late,” said Osborne. “If the plants are transplants and infested with cannabis aphid or hemp russet mite, they are not allowed to be moved outside your facility or harvested. Avoiding pests in the first place is your best bet.”
It is easier to prevent pest problems than it is to cure them; however, being able to quickly identify pests can be the key to quick remediation. Farmers should also be on the lookout for caterpillars, fire ants, and fungus.