Expanding Teachings on Integrated Pest Management in Texas

A federal grant to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will expand and improve the reach of pest management for both rural and urban audiences in Texas.

A federal grant awarded to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will expand and improve the reach of pest control for both rural and urban audiences.

Funding will help Integrated Pest Management, IPM, Experts educate thousands of Texan farmers about the latest pest control technologies and educate urban audiences about pollination-friendly plants that help protect bees and butterflies.

The $ 812,348 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture will support improvements in the educational program to meet the needs of the diverse state.

“This grant will certainly allow us to improve our current integrated pest control program nationwide and make that effort much larger and more far-reaching,” said David Kerns, Ph.D., Integrated Pest Control Coordinator and Entomologist, AgriLife Extension, Bryan College Train Station .

The USDA-NIFA Crop Protection and Pest Management Program, CPPM, supports projects that increase food security and effectively respond to other major societal challenges with comprehensive IPM approaches that are economically viable, environmentally sound, and safe for human health. The CPPM program addresses the pest control challenges with new and emerging technologies. The results of the CPPM program are effective, affordable and environmentally sound IPM practices and strategies that support more vital communities.

This is in line with Texas A&M AgriLife’s efforts to identify potential methods of reducing pesticide use and associated risks in urban landscapes using IPM principles. The main areas of focus for IPM in communities include:

  • Management of the Tawny Crazy Ant and the Red Imported Fire Ant.
  • Promotion and conservation of garden pollinators.
  • Integrated pest control of crepe myrtle bark scale.

Improve nationwide reach and plant identification efforts

The grant will help train pesticide applicators and introduce new Bacillus thuringiensis traits and other plant technologies. Bt are bacterial genes that are genetically engineered into cotton and other crops to control common pests.

“This is really changing the way we are fighting these pests in cotton with the new Bt technology,” Kerns said.

The use of Corn Sentinel plots will serve as an early detection system for Bt resistance, Kerns said. Using various maize Bt technologies, the corn earworm’s Bt resistance is monitored to determine which Bt technologies are suffering from pest damage. Corn earworm survival in Bt maize will warn cotton producers early on if the capsule worm is a serious pest.

General programming will also include the management of sugar cane aphids in sorghum. Kerns said biological control training will help farmers thwart potential pests like headworms and determine the best time to apply them during the growing season.

Expansion of digital reach, education in communities

Kerns said audio updates on integrated pest control will be provided to farmers, consultants and agricultural industry representatives in four regions of Texas with weekly bulletins on crop and pest conditions. Farmers log in with their mobile phone number and receive a weekly SMS with a link to audio updates for the AgriLife extension. In the first full year, the service has so far reached 337 subscribers.

“We will also add material to the AgriLife Learn platform,” said Kerns. “We already have learning modules for beekeeping and for new landowners who want to learn how to start a beekeeping business and get an exemption. Other efforts include pesticide use in schools and rodent control. “

The grant will also help fund potential new positions and support current AgriLife Extension’s IPM specialists and agents across the country.

Improving bottom line for Texans

Kerns said improved integrated pest management in communities will address invasive ant management as well as protection of pollinators and butterflies.

“If you want to treat a pest, you need to choose the appropriate pesticide that will minimize the effects on beneficial insects,” Kerns said. “For those who don’t know, there are targeted insecticides that you need to know how to use. When spraying against a pest in roses, there is no need to spray other flowers without pests. Nothing is achieved in this way, except to eliminate possibly good mistakes. “

Ultimately, funding for integrated pest management will not only benefit producers and their bottom line, but will also help protect the environment through pollinator and conservation practices, Kerns said.

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