Three-year scholarship for integrated pest control research
The Louisiana agricultural industry is faced with a sub-tropical climate that is accompanied by insects, diseases, and weeds that affect all facets of the business.
A three-year grant from the National Institutes of Food and Agriculture was recently awarded to a team of LSU AgCenter researchers and specialists who have pooled decades of experience to find solutions to a wide variety of harmful pests.
The Extension Implementation Program grant – valued at $ 110,000 for the first year and $ 106,000 each subsequent year based on certain criteria being met in the first year – was awarded to entomologist Gene Reagan and plant pathologist Boyd Padgett. You will work with research fellow Forest Huval and research fellow Megan Mulcahy. The funds are intended to support expansion programs in the country.
The four goals
The team has set itself four goals for its work: improved monitoring and management of agricultural pests, personnel support for the LSU AgCenter Plant Diagnostic Center, development and distribution of training and advisory materials as well as recertification, safety and application training for pesticides.
Huval is partially addressing Target # 1 by mapping the Mexican rice borer, a scourge of rice and sugar cane production in the state.
“Every week or two weeks I go out and check the traps that we pheromoned to attract the insect,” said Huval. “We are currently monitoring them in 13 communities and plan to expand further in the coming months.”
With regard to the pathology of the first target, Padgett examines certain classes of fungicides that were once effective but are no longer. He tries to find out where there are resistant pathogen populations. “Some spores can be blown from ward to ward,” said Padgett. “But in many cases they can also be found in infected plant remains.”
The “integrated” part of integrated pest management can be understood as Goal # 2: Staff support for the Plant Diagnostic Center, which processes hundreds of plant samples from Louisiana citizens affected by various biotic and abiotic pressures each year.
Goal # 3, developing and distributing educational materials, includes the brochures, booklets and fact sheets available at each of the AgCenter’s 64 community offices nationwide, but the grant project is exploring ways to expand into the electronic media space with the possible creation of one special YouTube channel that focuses exclusively on insects and an app that allows a person to take a photo of a diseased plant, submit it and identify the problem.
“The idea is that all of this would be completely free for the user and anyone looking for information,” said Reagan.
On Goal # 4 – pesticide registration, safety and application training – researchers agree that not all insecticides, herbicides and fungicides go well together. Most of the time, a combination is required for maximum crop yield. Padgett said the importance of training in the use of personal and commercial pesticides cannot be ignored.
“When it comes to pesticides, we always go back to reducing drift,” said Padgett. “If you spray a field or a garden and the wind blows it into someone else’s property, no matter how big or small, it can be problematic.”
Keep pollinators healthy
While pesticides certainly help fight harmful pests, beneficial insects are not always immune. One of many factors involved in pesticide application is ensuring the health of pollinators, which are essential to life on the planet. Mulcahy said the public must always be aware of potential dangers.
“You could imagine if you had a shop that produces and sells honey, someone could unknowingly apply a pyrethroid insecticide and wipe out the entire beehive,” she said. “So if we were to break it down, education and outreach on topics like these are really the goal of the scholarship.”
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