Collaring the Mice that Carry Lyme Disease-Causing Ticks

White-footed mice in Howard County, Maryland are being collared as part of a study to improve control of the ticks that spread Lyme disease. The mouse collaring research, never before done in Maryland, is a partnership of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks (HCRP), and University of Maryland (UMD).

The mouse tracking is part of a larger five-year ARS Tick Management Project evaluating the use of minimal pesticide or integrated pest management methods to lower the number of black-legged ticks. Some of those ticks carry Lyme disease-causing bacteria and are around single-family yards and gardens adjacent to large Howard County parks. Continue reading

Intercropping boosts vegetable production

by Adam Russell, Texas A&M AgriLife

The old ways could be the best ways when it comes to small-acreage vegetable production, according to a newly published article available through the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Dr. Jose Franco, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Agriculture Research Service agroecologist, Mandan, North Dakota, conducted the two-year study of intercropping at the Texas A&M University Horticulture Farm in Bryan for his doctoral dissertation under the guidance of Dr. Astrid Volder, former Texas A&M University faculty and current University of California at Davis plant physiologist; Dr. Stephen King, a former professor and vegetable breeder with Texas A&M department of horticultural sciences, College Station; and Dr. Joe Masabni, AgriLife Extension small acreage horticulturist, Overton.  Continue reading

Graduate Research Assistantship in Stored Product Entomology | Entomological Society of America

One graduate research assistantship is available for a Ph.D. student in the Department of Entomology at Kansas State University. The research will focus on the development of behaviorally-based management strategies such as attract-and-kill and the use of long-lasting insecticide netting to prevent infestation by a range of stored product insects (e.g., red flour beetle, lesser grain borer, Indian meal moth) in mills, warehouses, and other facilities. This will include laboratory assays, semi-field experiments, and field trials.

The student will be co-advised by faculty from the USDA-ARS Center for Grain and Animal Health Research in Manhattan, KS. Successful candidates for this position should possess a M.S. in entomology, biology, or a related field. The student is expected to be supported for at least three years, which includes an annual stipend of $25,000, graduate student fringe benefits, and tuition and fees applied towards the Ph.D. program. The position will be available starting in January 2018, or until a qualified candidate has been identified. Interested individuals should send their curriculum vitae, a cover letter, and the contact information for three references to either Dr. Rob Morrison (william.morrison@ars.usda.gov) or Dr. Kun Yan Zhu (kzhu@ksu.edu) by September 30, 2017 or as soon as possible. However, complete applications must be submitted online at http://entomology.k-state.edu/for-students/admissions.html.

USDA research finds conservation tillage works better after first year

In Southeast Farm Press

An onslaught of the weed Palmer amaranth in the southeastern United States has left many farmers wondering if they should continue using environmentally friendly cover crops and conservation tillage or switch to conventional tillage.

Palmer amaranth is aggressive, drought tolerant, a prolific seed producer, and capable of developing resistance to glyphosate, known as Roundup. Because of that, thousands of acres in Alabama and elsewhere are at risk of being converted to conventional tillage, which may better control the weed, but increases soil erosion and threatens long-term soil productivity.  Continue reading

“Good-Guy” Fungus to Take on Killer of Oaks and Ornamental Crops

by Jan Suszkiw, USDA Agricultural Research Service

A beneficial soil fungus could offer a biobased approach to battling Phytophthora ramorum, a pathogen that kills oaks, other tree species and woody ornamentals.

BioWorks, Inc. of Victor, New York, is collaborating with Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant pathologist Tim Widmer to commercially formulate the fungus, Trichoderma asperellum. The species is a mycoparasite, meaning it attacks and kills other fungi, including P. ramorum, a fungus-like pathogen, notes Widmer, with ARS in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Continue reading

USDA Scientists and Partners Investigate Hawaiian Tree Deaths

A team of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists and their collaborators are pursuing a fungal killer that’s attacking Hawaii’s native ‘Ōhi’a trees. Fortunately, their efforts are already turning up important new leads and tools to counter the fungus, known scientifically as Ceratocystis fimbriata.

Identified in 2014, C. fimbriata causes a vascular wilt disease called “Rapid ‘Ōhi’a Death” (ROD) that’s killed hundreds of thousands of ‘Ōhi’a trees in forest and residential areas. Affected areas include the Big Island of Hawaii’s South Hilo, Puna and Ka’ū districts, according to Lisa Keith, a plant pathologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Hilo, Hawaii. Continue reading

Scientists discover the Mediterranean fruit fly’s genetic code

By Jan Suszkiw, Agricultural Research Service

An international team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other research organizations have sequenced the complete genome of the Mediterranean fruit fly, Ceratitis capitata. This pest attacks more than 260 fruit, vegetable and nut crops worldwide, causing billions of dollars annually in direct damage, export sanctions, lost markets, and other costs.

Reported in the September issue of Genome Biology, this advance is like finding the medfly’s playbook of life. It gives researchers an edge in spotting weaknesses to exploit, particularly genes tied to the pest’s ability to reproduce, withstand pathogens, find host plants, and break down environmental toxins. The advance should also foster greater understanding of how the insect’s genetics make it such a successful invasive pest. Continue reading