SIPMC Funds 11 IPM Enhancement Grants this year

Home gardeners, farmers and others will have new tools and educational opportunities thanks to 11 projects recently funded by the Southern IPM Center. Out of a total of 20 proposals, these 11 projects, totaling $300,000 in funding, will provide new crop profiles on turfgrass, ornamentals and agricultural crops; delve into complex pest issues with avocadoes, sorghum and other crops; and provide information for home gardeners on how to use IPM in small vegetable gardens.

Dr. Kris Bramen from the University of Georgia leads a team of specialists from Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama to provide illustrated booklets and a series of workshops on vegetable IPM for the small market grower or home gardener. The number of small vegetable farmers selling directly to consumers at farmers markets and farm stands is growing, creating more need for educational materials. The team plans to use $29,597 in funding to create a folding guide on cultural, insect and disease problems, along with a guide to beneficial insects and a series of IPM workshops.

Dr. Raul Medina from Texas A&M AgriLife Research will use $29,085 to investigate the genetics of a new aphid, identified as Melanaphis sacchari, or the sorghum/sugarcane aphid. Typically a pest of sugarcane, growers and researchers are concerned that the aphid is now infesting sorghum, at levels not previously seen even in sugarcane. Last year the pest spread quickly, causing estimated yield losses of 33-50% in treated fields and 100% in untreated fields. Medina will test populations of the aphid to characterize it genetically.

While Dr. Medina is testing the genetics of the sorghum aphid, Texas A&M AgriLife scientists Michael Brewer and Mo Way use $30,000 to join others from Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma to begin research on thresholds for the aphid.  Although some chemical and biocontrol options have provided management of early infestations, sorghum farmers have no economic threshold to assess timing for control, and heavy infestations can cause losses of up to 50% of total yield. Researchers will evaluate 12 fields in Texas to determine natural enemy populations and assess varying rates of insecticidal coverage for control. They will then disseminate their findings through a series of seminars, workshops and written materials for print and Internet.

To help avocado growers and homeowners combat the redbay ambrosia beetle and other avocado pests, Drs. Daniel Carillo and Jorge Peña will use $22,852 to build a website full of identification tools and management recommendations. The redbay ambrosia beetle is a relatively recent exotic invasive insect that transmits a pathogen to trees in the Lauraceae family, killing them in just a few years. Currently growers use pesticides to kill the beetle; however, the increased pesticide use is eradicating predatory insects that had previously been keeping some of the other avocado pests at manageable levels. Carillo and Peña plan to create a pest management website specifically for avocado, providing pictures and identification keys to help growers and homeowners identify insects, with a special section dedicated to the redbay ambrosia beetle.

North Carolina State University researcher Dr. Barbara Fair and other North Carolina experts will use $18,818 to update 11 crop profiles of both edible and non-edible crops to provide up-to-date information on pests and a variety of management options. Crop profiles provide detailed information on insect pests, diseases and weeds associated with the crop as well as lists of chemical, biological and cultural controls that can reduce those problems.

Dr. Casey Reynolds will use $11,922 to add to the bank of crop profiles and pest management strategic plans by preparing both for turfgrass in Texas. With the crop profile and PMSP, Dr. Reynolds will provide turfgrass managers with a single source of IPM information for turfgrass.

Strawberry growers will have the first peak at a new smartphone app that will combine available information on IPM for a variety of fruits. Beginning with strawberry diseases, Clemson researchers Guido Schnabel and Roy Pargas will use $30,000 to create a “one-stop shopping” place for pictures of disease pathogens and symptoms, videos of management recommendations, as well as journal articles about diseases and scientific talks on IPM. The app, funded for the first of three stages, will eventually house insect pest, disease and weed IPM information for berry and stone fruits.

Berry growers trying to ward off spotted wing drosophila have to use weekly insecticide treatments. However, these treatments often cause residues that do not pass inspection, and growers dislike using such frequent chemical treatments. However, removing old fruit from the field, which sanitizes the growing area, is costly and labor intensive since workers must pick fruit off the ground. University of Georgia researchers Glen Rains and Ash Sial will use $28,893 to devise a tool that will make sanitation practices easier and quicker. They plan to invent a special blower to blow fallen fruit from the bushes to the middle of the rows, where a prototype roller will squash them, killing the SWD eggs and larvae. Drs. Rains and Sial will compare results from sanitation and sprays to see if the new technology reduces the need for such frequent sprays.

A new disease of watermelon discovered last year has been concerning Florida growers. Although a group of University of Florida research and extension specialists have identified that pathogen, no prescribed treatment yet exists. Growers typically use copper bactericides to kill bacterial diseases, but no recommendations exist for dosage. Preliminary experiments have shown that SAR inducers like Actigard will reduce the severity of the disease. Led by Mathews Paret, the team of Florida specialists will use $28,851 to test dosages and combinations of copper and SAR inducers to determine optimum dosages for efficient control.

Auburn University researcher Austin Hagan joins two other researchers from Auburn and Georgia to study the impact of and ways to manage target spot on cotton. Target spot is a relatively new disease that can devastate a cotton field, causing losses of up to 15% in some areas. Growers currently use strobilurin fungicides to control the disease, but specialists worry about eventual fungicide resistance given the rate at which current treatments are being used. Dr. Hagan and his colleagues will use $30,000 to determine the impact of target spot on lint yield and quality, evaluate several commercial varieties with regard to their susceptibility to target spot, test the efficacy of registered and broad-spectrum fungicides, and assess how seeding rate and planting date impact target spot development.

Finally, members of the Southern Nursery IPM Working Group will use $39,982 to hold a series of workshops for ornamental growers. In addition to group workshops, the group will hand out printed and digital material and lead hands-on demonstrations of scouting and pest identification. The group will also update the nursery pest management strategic plan and survey growers to assess their level of IPM knowledge.

These projects will unfold in the next year, giving growers, homeowners and others who manage pests new tools and knowledge to better assess pest problems and address them appropriately.

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