Wayne County integrated pest management (IPM) crop scouts are finding potato leafhoppers (PLH) in area alfalfa fields. PLH numbers have ranged from low to pushing economic treatment levels. Area alfalfa growers should consider regular field scouting for PLH because this is one of the economically significant pests of alfalfa.
The potato leafhopper is a small bright green wedge shaped insect that arrives in our area each year on storm fronts from the Gulf Coast region. PLH is a sucking insect. PLH feeding causes stunting of alfalfa plants resulting in yield loss. Excessive stress on plants by heavy PLH feeding can result in yield reductions in the current as well as subsequent cuttings. A common symptom of PLH feeding is a wedge-shaped yellowing of leaf tips, but at this point, some damage has been done. Regular scouting can help to detect PLH earlier and determine if there is a need for a rescue treatment.
Scouting involves the use of a sweep net. There is no other way to properly and accurately scout for PLH. The procedure is to take three to five samples for each 25 acres from random areas within the field. One sample consists of 10 pendulum sweeps. After the 10-sweep sample, carefully inspect the net contents and count the number of PLH adults and nymphs. For non-PLH resistant alfalfa varieties, treatment is warranted if the number of PLH adults and nymphs is equal to or greater than the average height of the alfalfa. An OSU Extension fact sheet on PLH is available on-line at https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/ENT-33.