COW PEAS and soybeans could possibly be used as “trap crops” to keep stink bugs from entering pecan orchards, according to research by a Louisiana entomologist.

“Stink bugs move into pecan orchards from the time the shuck splits and stay through harvest,” says Michael Hall, a pecan entomologist at the LSU AgCenter's Pecan Research and Extension Station near Shreveport, La. “The bugs leave black spots that are very bitter on the kernels. This damage cannot be detected until after the nut is cracked, and by that time, a lot of work already has gone into harvesting and shelling the pecans.”

Hall says stink bugs find crops such as cow peas and soybeans more appealing than pecan trees. He and other researchers are looking at what happens if plots of these crops are planted near pecan orchards.

“We're hoping the stink bugs will gravitate toward the trap crop and away from the trees,” he said.

Growing trap crops could prove beneficial for owners of small pecan orchards, as well as people who want to grow their pecan crops organically. “Having a trap crop around the orchard would mean owners would be able to control stink bugs without spraying,” Hall says, referring to the possible elimination of the other choice of applying pesticides to control stink bugs. “This would save the orchard owner money.”

While trap crops may be useful in some orchards, they should not be grown around all orchards.