2014 Friends of Southern IPM Winners

Two graduate students and five seasoned IPM professional individuals or groups will receive recognition for being Friends of Southern IPM this year. This year’s contest yielded competition in every category that received nominations. 

Jhalendra Rijal, a doctoral student at Virginia Tech due to finish his degree in February, has done extensive research on the biology and ecology of grape root borer, an economically important pest of grapevines. Because grape root borers spend their larval stages in the soil, scouting has been non-existent, and no thresholds exist for the pest. Rijal spent months studying the borers’ growth stages to find out if he could find a way to scout for them once they were above ground.

He found that the borer pupated above ground, and from the number of pupal cases, he could determine whether or not a vine was infested. His research led to a monitoring protocol that will help growers make sound management decisions for grape root borer for the first time. In addition, he studied soil characteristics and root volatiles to find out why some vineyards are more infested than others and whether grapevine roots emitted a chemical that attracted the root borer. His investigation into the soil characteristics showed that root borers were more likely to inhabit soils with a specific clay-to-sand ratio. Studies on the root volatiles proved that root borers were indeed attracted to the volatiles. Dr. Bergh hopes to use Rijal’s data to develop an artificial attractant to divert the borers from the plants.

Also from Virginia Tech, graduate student award winner Molly Stedfast is an energetic masters student who has helped residents in low-cost housing cope with bed bugs. After conducting a survey of apartment facilities personnel and residents to find out how much they knew about bed bugs, she developed a training program that included information on bed bug biology and behavior, and practical instruction on methods of prevention and control, gained from research that she did on the development of low-cost, minimally toxic control methods.

Not only did she conduct resident and staff training, but she also personally applied diatomaceous earth to 120 apartments as a perimeter barrier. Her prevention protocol prompted the staff of a housing management company in New Orleans to ask her to train their staff members about how to apply the barrier and build a heat box. Her training brochures and booklets are used frequently by other trainers. According to nominator Dr. Dini Miller, Stedfast “has had more face to face contacts and has treated (crawled through) more infested apartment units than any other MS student in the United States.”

The Bright Idea award goes to the Southern Nursery IPM Working Group (SNIPM) for their development of mobile information technology in the green industry. In particular, the group has developed two applications: a mobile app called IPMPro and an e-book, IPM for Select Deciduous Trees in Southeastern US Nursery Production.

IPMPro is an app designed to encourage scouting by alerting growers to emerging pests. According to surveys, nursery growers typically discover pests while performing other tasks and then spray. With a text alert on their phone that warns then of upcoming key pests, growers can catch early pest populations before they have had a chance to do significant damage. The e-book IPM for Select Deciduous Trees is an innovative interactive book in multimedia format that has increased savings or earnings for growers by an average of $3,313 per book due to reduced pesticide use and more effective pesticide applications.

The City of New Orleans Mosquito & Termite Control Board earns the IPM Implementer award for its implementation of IPM in city buildings and schools across New Orleans. Director Claudia Riegel and her team have spent several years not only cleaning up buildings wrecked by Hurricane Katrina, but changing how people think about pest control. The team’s efforts to prevent and control mosquitoes and rodents have been featured on Discovery Channel and National Public Radio.

Dr. Riegel began implementing a citywide IPM program in 2008 as buildings destroyed by Hurricane Katrina were repaired or rebuilt. Her biggest challenge was convincing staff to reduce clutter and keep properties clean to prevent pests rather than simply doing continuous chemical control. By 2011, most city employees were practicing IPM in their buildings. Dr. Riegel has also worked to include schools in the IPM program. After encountering resistance in the general city schools, she approached charter school John McDonogh High School. With the help of the entire NOMTC staff, school staff and volunteers working for a year, she was able to turn a building that had received a “D” in a pest assessment to an “A+”. Other charter schools are now requesting the team’s help.

Arkansas IPM Coordinator Gus Lorenz was this year’s choice for IPM Educator. Dr. Lorenz is not new to the Friends of IPM Awards program; his Midsouth Entomology Working Group received the Pulling Together award in 2011. Field crops, especially cotton, corn, rice, grain sorghum and soybeans, are his specialty. As IPM Coordinator, Dr. Lorenz combines research with extension, finding out information that growers can use and then teaching them about changes in practices. For instance, recently Dr. Lorenz and collaborators in Tennessee and Mississippi concluded that some of the chemicals in question with regard to colony collapse disorder are not expressed in plant pollen, having implications for regulatory decisions as well as pest management decisions on the farm.

Dr. Lorenz not only spends time with growers in educational meetings and consultations in the field, but he also works with graduate students as well. He devotes about $600,000 to grower training and graduate student support every year. In addition to face-to-face meetings, Dr. Lorenz disseminates information through newsletters, articles, reports and popular press articles. He also uses funding from his IPM program to support educational efforts of individual counties in Arkansas.

The Pulling Together award goes to Dr. Allen Knutson, Dr. Mark Muegge, Dr. Jerry Michels and research associate Erin Jones, entomologists with Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension, who pulled together as the Saltcedar Biological Control Team to use a beneficial beetle to control an invasive weedy shrub named saltcedar. This large shrub grows in extensive thickets along streams and around reservoirs in arid West Texas. Saltcedar is an undesirable brush species that uses precious water resources, competes with forage grasses, degrades riparian areas and invades adjacent agricultural areas. For years farmers, ranchers and land managers used chemical and mechanical controls but these are expensive, impact other vegetation and treated areas are often reinfested by wind and water borne seeds. From 2004-2008 Texas farmers and ranchers spent $2.3 million to control saltcedar. In 2008 Texas A&M entomologists organized the Saltcedar Biological Control Team to research and implement biological control of saltcedar using leaf beetles imported by USDA-ARS entomologists. 

Team members released and evaluated three species of leaf beetle (Diorhabda) at sites extending from Big Bend National Park on the Mexico border to the northern Texas Panhandle. Team members collected and released more than a million beetles and also trained NRCS personnel to release the beetles. Since then, beetles have been feasting on saltcedar foliage, defoliating thickets of trees along hundreds of miles of river corridor. Although plant death takes 3-5 years, defoliated trees transpire less water, allowing light to penetrate stands so that native plant populations can recover. The impact on the state has been so positive that the Saltcedar Biological Control Team won the Texas A&M University’s Vice Chancellor award last year.

Georgia fruit crop entomologist Dan L. Horton will receive the Lifetime Achievement award this year. Soon after joining the University of Georgia faculty in 1982, Dr. Horton implemented a proactive regionalized IPM program for fruit crops. He collaborated with colleagues across state lines and worked for consensus in IPM recommendations. Although fruit is a high value commodity in the Southeast, their climate requirements confine them to certain areas across states, so university resources dedicated to fruit crops have shrunk over several years. Despite this, Dr. Horton was determined to make fruit farming a successful industry in the South.

Dr. Horton’s approach to IPM acknowledges all disciplines. For instance, he collaborated with plant pathologists in the region to develop and administer virus testing for plum pox virus, and he works with other researchers to create IPM recommendations to replace pesticides that have been withdrawn from the market. The Georgia Peach Grower’s Handbook, developed for the state’s growers, is now considered a regional publication and is used throughout the southeast. Because his efforts have helped the southeastern fruit industry flourish, he has been recognized with several state and regional awards during his career.

This year’s winners will be recognized during various events throughout the year, including the Southeastern and Southwestern Branch ESA meetings, the Southern Nursery Association meeting and a citywide recognition service in New Orleans.

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