Taking an environmentally sensitive approach to pest management


Integrated Pest & Crop Management


Wayne C. Bailey
University of Missouri
Plant Science & Technology
(573) 882-2838

Potato Leafhopper Numbers High in some Alfalfa Fields

Wayne C. Bailey
University of Missouri
(573) 882-2838

Published: June 20, 2011

Potato leafhopper adults are greenish-yellow in color, wedge shaped and about 1/8-inch in length. Adult leafhoppers are very mobile and quickly move sideways, jump, or fly when disturbed. This is a native insect that migrates into Missouri each spring from more southern states and Mexico. The potato leafhopper is often transported into the state by early spring storms, especially those that contain hail. Migrating leafhoppers are thought to actively fly into storm fronts and be carried great distances by low level winds (jets) which approach 100 mph in speed. After a storm passes, high numbers of leafhoppers often can be found in the trail of the storms. In Missouri, the potato leafhopper adults generally arrive in early May of each year. The arriving adults may feed initially on several tree species before moving to alfalfa to feed and reproduce. Two to three generations of potato leafhopper are often produced with economic damage generally occurring on alfalfa following removal of first and possible second harvests.

Damage is caused when both adult and nymphal (immature) leafhoppers use their piercing-sucking mouthparts to penetrate alfalfa leaflets and stems. They remove plant juices and often cause yellowing of established plants, stunted plant growth, and mortality of seedling alfalfa. Both forage quality and quantity are reduced by this alfalfa pest. Potato leafhoppers typically arrive in Missouri in early May each year, although their arrival in Missouri was delayed in 2011 with peak arrival occurring in early June. Scouting is best accomplished using a 15-inch diameter sweep net. Take 10 pendulum sweeps at five random locations in the field. If the average number of potato leafhopper adult and nymphs per sweep reach or exceed the threshold numbers listed below, treatment is justified. The economic threshold for potato leafhopper in alfalfa depends on the height of the alfalfa and whether the alfalfa is a potato leafhopper resistant variety or a traditional alfalfa variety. Second and third cutting alfalfa crops are most at risk. Leafhoppers often cause severe plant loss to newly seeded alfalfa stands so monitor these fields often to determine potato leafhopper numbers. At present, potato leafhoppers can readily be found in most alfalfa fields along the western edge of Missouri and in many central and northern Missouri alfalfa fields.

Economic Threshold for Potato Leafhopper in Alfalfa
Alfalfa Stem Ave # PLH/Sweep Ave # PLH/Sweep
Length – inches (traditional variety) (PLH Resistant Variety)
<3 0.2 (2 in 10 sweeps) 0.6 (6 in 10 sweeps)
6 0.5 (5 in 10 sweeps) 1.5 (15 in 10 sweeps)
8-10 1.0 (1 per sweep) 3.0 (30 in 10 sweeps)
12-14 2.0 (2 per sweep) 6.0 (60 in 10 sweeps)


Recommended Insecticides for Potato Leafhopper Adult and Nymphs in Alfalfa
Insect Pest: Potato Leafhopper
Chemical Name Trade Name Rate of formulated material Preharvest Interval
Beta-cyfluthrin *Baythroid XL 0.8 to 1.6 fl oz/acre 7 days
Chlorpyrifos + gamma cyhalothrin *Cobalt 7 to 13 fl oz/acre 7-14 days
Dimethoate Dimethoate see specific label 10 days
Carbofuran *Furadan 4F 1 to 2 pts/acre 14-28 days
Chlorpyrifos 4E *Lorsban 4E 1 to 2 pts/acre 7-14 days
Malathion numerous products see specific label 0-7 days
Methyl Parathion *numerous products see specific label 15 days
Zeta-cypermethrin *Mustang Max 2.24 to 4.0 fl oz/acre 3 days
Permethrin *numerous products see specific label 7-14 days
Gamma-cyhalothrin *Proaxis 1.92 to 3.2 fl oz/acre 1 day forage, 7 day hay
Carbaryl Sevin 4F 1 qt/acre 7 days
Carbaryl Sevin XLR Plus 1 qt/acre 7 days
Zeta-cypermethrin + chlorpyrifos *Stallion 5.0 to 11.75 fl oz 7 days
Lambda-cyhalothrin + chlorantraniliprole *Volian xpress 5.0 to 8.0 fl oz 1 day forage, 7 day hay
Lambda-cyhalothrin *Warrior 1.92 to 3.2 fl oz/acre 1 day forage, 7 day hay
Lambda-cyhalothrin *numerous products see specific label 1 day forage, 7 day hay
Read and follow all label direction, precautions, and restrictions. * Designated a restricted use product.

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REVISED: November 10, 2011