Three-year grant awarded to LSU AgCenter for Integrated Pest Management

Editor: V. Todd Miller at [email protected]

Louisiana’s agricultural industry is valued at over $ 12 billion. But with the state’s subtropical climate, there are insects, diseases, and weeds, which affect every facet of the business.

A three-year grant from the National Institutes of Food and Agriculture was recently awarded to a team of researchers and extension specialists from LSU AgCenter who combine their decades of experience to find solutions to a 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 meeting certain criteria in the first year – was awarded to the entomologist Gene Reagan and plant pathologist Boyd Padgett. They work alongside research associate Forest Huval and graduate assistant Megan Mulcahy. The funds are dedicated to supporting extension programs in the state.

The team has set four goals for its work: to improve the monitoring and management of agronomic pests; staff support for the LSU AgCenter plant diagnostic center; development and distribution of education and extension materials; and training on recertification, safety and application of pesticides.

Huval is partially tackling Goal 1 by mapping the Mexican rice borer, the scourge of rice and sugar cane production in the state.

“On a weekly or bi-weekly basis, I go out and check the traps that we have laced with pheromones to attract the insect,” Huval said. “We are currently monitoring them in 13 parishes and plan to expand them further in the coming months. “

On the pathological front of the first objective, Padgett studies certain classes of fungicides which were once effective but are no longer so. He is trying to determine where populations of resistant pathogens exist.

“Some spores can be blown away from one parish to another,” Padgett said. “But in many cases, they can also be found in infested plant debris.”

The “integrated” part of integrated pest control can be understood by objective n ° 2: personnel support to the Plant Diagnostic Center, which processes hundreds of samples of plants affected by various biotic stresses and stresses every year. abiotics from Louisiana citizens.

Goal 3, the development and distribution of educational materials, includes the brochures, leaflets and fact sheets that can be found in each of the 64 parish offices of the AgCenter statewide. But the grant project is looking for ways to expand into the electronic media arena with the potential creation of a YouTube channel dedicated strictly to insects as well as an app where a person can take a photo of a diseased plant, the send and have the problem identified.

“The idea is that all of this would be completely free for the user and anyone looking for information,” Reagan said.

On Goal # 4 – pesticide registration, safety and application training – researchers all agree that not all insecticides, herbicides and fungicides mix. Most often, a combination is needed for maximum crop yield. Padgett said the importance of training in private and commercial pesticide application cannot be ignored.

“When it comes to pesticides, we always come back to drift mitigation,” Padgett said. “If you spray a field or a garden and the wind blows it over someone else’s property, regardless of its size, it can be problematic. “

Where pesticides certainly help control harmful pests, beneficial insects are not always immune. One of the many factors that go into the application of pesticides is to ensure the health of pollinators, essential for life on the planet. Mulcahy said the public should always be aware of the potential dangers.

“You could imagine that if you had a business where they produced and sold honey, someone could unknowingly apply a pyrethroid insecticide and wipe out the whole beehive,” she said. “So if we were to break it down, education and awareness on issues like these is really the goal of the grant.”

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