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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Predictive Modeling & Mitigation of Effects of Climate Change on Migration & Infestation Patterns of Semitropical/tropical Crop Pest Insects

Location: Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research Unit

2013 Annual Report


1a.Objectives (from AD-416):
1. Establish a long-term regional monitoring network to collect fall armyworm migration data and specimens from appropriate times and locations.

2. Collections will be analyzed by a novel haplotype method to map the seasonal migration of fall armyworm from their FL and TX overwintering areas into the central and eastern U.S.

3. The data will be used to adapt air trajectory models, previously designed to assess the long-range transport of particles, for use in predicting FAW dispersal patterns in the U.S. under different climate change scenarios.

4. Assess whether increased use of sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea L.) and cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata [L.] Walpers spp. unguiculata) as cover crops can mitigate the anticipated expansion of the fall armyworm migratory range without additional pesticide use.


1b.Approach (from AD-416):
Three experimental strategies are proposed. First will be the establishment of a monitoring infrastructure that uses fall armyworm as a bioindicator of climatic effects on migration. Second will be the development of forecasting models to identify agricultural regions likely to face climate-induced increases in fall armyworm pressure, and thereby facilitate grower decision-making on agricultural practices and crop choice. Third will be the development of environmentally-benign strategies involving the adoption of plant species as forage or cover crops that are unsupportive of fall armyworm development and provide other benefits tailored for use in heat and water stressed environments.


3.Progress Report:

This research relates directly to Objective 1. Genetics: Identify developmentally significant genes from whole genome and transcriptome sequencing projects that may be targeted or manipulated in transgenic and nontransgenic insect strains for biological control. Test conditional lethal systems using cell death genes and microRNAs targeted to embryos and vital processes in tephritids and lepidopterans and develop germ-line transformation for the cactus moth and Asian citrus psyllid.

Surveys and collections of fall armyworm from central and eastern U.S. and Canada to be used for the haplotype analysis of fall armyworm subpopulations were completed for the second year of the project. Preliminary studies on sunn hemp and cowpeas as cover crops were completed and data used to modify/optimize future field experiments. Products and sevices developed this included: (1) Continued expansion of the online PestWatch database (http://www.pestwatch.psu.edu/) in U.S. and Canada; (2) Continued collaborations with a seed producer specializing in ground cover plants (Richard Petcher) and two University of Florida researchers (Dr. G. Nuessley, Dr. D. Wright) on sunn hemp cover crop studies. Expansion of the network of cooperators participating in the fall armyworm migration study to allow weekly monitoring throughout the U.S. and 36 sites in Canada. Second year of national fall armyworm surveys provided data for the multi-year mapping of annual migration patterns.


Last Modified: 4/17/2014
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