Utah wheat fields, along with wheat crops in more than a dozen other states, are being threatened by a tiny pest that last year destroyed $36 million worth of wheat, barley, oats and rye in the United States.
Almost $1 million has been allocated this year for research to help solve the problems being caused by the newly imported Russian wheat aphid, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.Researchers in Utah say the pest, which originated in the Soviet Union, Iran and Afghanistan, was first detected in the Texas panhandle in 1986 and, carried on the wind, has spread to Utah and to Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming.
Scientists believe the Russian wheat aphid came to Texas from Mexico.
It scourges crop fields and spreads disease and injects toxin into leaves as it feeds. Damaged leaves curl, sheltering the hidden pest from pesticides.
More than $17 million worth of chemicals were used last year alone to fight the aphid.
Aphid research includes projects to develop biological controls, including insects or diseases that can be used against the pest; resistant varieties of wheat and other crops, and are other new farm practices, such as putting mulch under crops, which repels other aphids.