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Science and the Environment

Experts Find Winter Grain Mite in Southwest Missouri Fields

WinterGrainMite2.jpg
Jill Scheidt/MU Extension
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Winter Grain mites were found in multiple wheat fields in SW Missouri in April.

A University of Missouri Extension specialist found an unusual pest when she was scouting a wheat field earlier this month. KSMU’s Megan Burke reports.

Jill Scheidt is an agronomy specialist for the extension office in Lamar, Missouri. She often scouts fields in Barton County and surrounding counties.

The pest she found is the Winter Grain mite. That's a small, black insect with red legs. It can be identified using a hand lens to spot an anal pore that looks like a small water droplet on the mite's abdomen. Scheidt found the mites in multiple fields, she said.

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Credit Jill Scheidt/MU Extension
Winter Grain mites are small black insects with red legs that feed on wheat and wild grasses and can be pests for farmers.

“And the way that they cause damage is they have a needle-like mouth part that they stick into the plant and they suck the sap out so it kind of takes out the moisture and the nutrients out of the plant. Just be looking for burned leaf tips or for the leaves in the whole field to have a silvery cast to it. If you see that, that’s when you should treat for it,” Scheidt said.

Scheidt says if there's enough rain, the wheat will outgrow any damage the mites cause.

Kevin Rice, the field crop entomologist for the MU Extension, says the mites do better in cooler weather and become inactive once the temperature rises above 75 degrees.

Rice says there is limited research on the Winter Grain mite, but that they feed on multiple plant species, including wild grasses. It does not feed on corn, nor cotton, he said.

"They could be migrating in from potential grasses next to it. Like Fescue is one of their favorite host plant species. So knowing some of the wild plants on the edge of your border could be important too for control options,” Rice said.

Both Rice and Scheidt said they do not expect this to become a widespread problem or cause economic injury. They suggest farmers monitor their crops on a regular basis; and if they do find these mites in their fields to report it to a crop consultant and your local MU Extension office.

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