More than 100 pest species have been reported in Florida hemp crops

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Diagnosing and managing pests can pose a challenge for hemp cultivation in Florida, according to a team of researchers who said they found evidence of 105 pest species that are either present or were intercepted in Florida.

“This makes hemp one of the crops with the most diverse pest communities in the state,” Muhammad Z. Ahmed, a research entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), wrote in a recent summary of scientific literature published on Entomology Today.

The secondary research, which reviewed existing studies worldwide, looked at reports of arthropods (insects and arachnids) and mollusks (snails and slugs) in both indoor and outdoor grows. It is intended to help extension agents, growers, regulators, and researchers in scouting and inspecting hemp, according to Ahmed, who works in the Subtropical Insects and Horticulture Research Unit of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Fort Pierce, Florida.

250 species worldwide

More than 250 species of pests found in hemp crops have been reported worldwide, the study found. In Florida, the 105 species found belong to 86 genera, 41 families, 10 orders, and 2 phyla associated with hemp, according to the report.

Ahmed wrote that because a high diversity of species infests hemp plants, symptoms of damage can be very confusing, so the report includes a key to help growers and farm specialists distinguish between pest and non-pest species, and identify the pests and their life stages.

Management strategies

That will let them devise strategies for pest management and help to prevent economic damage to the hemp industry in Florida, according to Ahmed.

Because almost all parts of the hemp plant can be used in different commercial products, protecting all parts of the hemp plant is critical, Ahmed added.

The report was co-authored by Cindy McKenzie, Ph.D., also a research entomologist at USDA’s Ft. Pierce office, and Lance Osborne, a professor of entomology at the University of Florida’s Mid-Florida Research & Education Center.

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