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Morrison Lab Circa October 2021 in Manhattan, KS.

About the Morrison Lab

We are a group of researchers investigating the behavioral and chemical ecology of insects after harvest.  After harvest, producers lose 10-30% of their commodities to damage by post-harvest insects through the storage, transportation, processing, and marketing of products before they reach the hands of consumers. The post-harvest commodity chain represents hundreds of billions of US dollars in value (think of everything from on-farm storage of bulk commodities to finished products in retail stores). We are focused on developing economical and sustainable tactics for diversifying management of stored product insects that will provide safe and healthy products. Our research explores how we can develop robust integrated pest management programs from farm to fork.

If you are interested in working in the Morrison Lab, please contact the head of the lab (Dr. Rob Morrison) by sending an email with your research interests and current CV to william.morrison “at” usda [.] gov.

 

Lab Members

Dr. Rob Morrison (SY)

Shawn Chen (Permanent Tech)

Samantha Gillette (Biological Sciences Aide)

Avery James (Biological Sciences Aide)

Madison Lillich (Biological Sciences Aide)

Ian Stoll (Biological Sciences Aide)

Jacqueline Maille (Ph.D. Student)

Marco Ponce (Ph.D. Student)

Hannah Quellhorst (Ph.D. Candidate)

Sabita Ranabhat (Ph.D. Student)

Hazel Scribner (M.S. Student)

 

Ongoing Research Projects

Below is just a sampling of some of the ongoing current projects in the Morrison Lab.

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Long-lasting insecticide netting is effective against red flour beetle and lesser grain borer.

Photo credit: S. Ranabhat and R. Morrison.

Assessing long-lasting insecticide netting as an alternative integrated pest management tactic for stored product insects

Bed nets have been used to help control vectors of arthropod-borne disease since the 1990s in tropical regions of the world. Bed nets are also known as long-lasting insecticide nets (LLINs), and consist of polyethylene mesh netting impregnated with insecticides. More recently, these nets have been considered for their use in control of agricultural pests before harvest. We are evaluating the ability of LLINs to intercept and prevent the dispersal of stored product insects in the post-harvest supply chain. Our work may contribute to the development and validation of an alternative tactic to intercept immigrating stored product insects in and around food facilities.

 

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Attract-and-kill interception trap modified from a spillage trap design by Campbell, Arthur, and colleagues.

Photo credit: R. Morrison.

Development of attract-and-kill to manage stored product insects in and around facilities

One behaviorally-based management strategy we are working on developing is termed attract-and-kill. The concept behind this is simple: we deploy attractive pheromones or kairomones to attract foraging stored product insects to a spatially circumscribed area, where they come into contact with an insecticide and are removed from the foraging population. We can thus protect and reduce direct contact of insecticides on post-harvest commodities by managing insects in a different location. We are currently evaluating potential attractants and trap designs for a potential attract-and-kill device.

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Testing novel trap designs at food facilities is important for optimizing surveillance of

quarantined stored product insects such as the khapra beetle. Photo credit: R. Morrison.

Improving surveillance tools and management tactics for invasive quarantine stored product insects

The invasive khapra beetle, Trogoderma granarium, has been rated as one of the top 100 worst invasive species. It was identified from 151 sites in 3 U.S. States in 1953, and the U.S. spent $11 million to eradicate it, which translates to $90 million in today’s currency. Though the effort was successful, there have been an increasing number of interceptions of the khapra beetle at U.S. ports and borders by APHIS, raising the concern that it may become established. If this happens, it would be devastating for the post-harvest supply chain since khapra beetle can feed on a large variety of animal and plant products. The work in my lab is looking at developing effective surveillance tools and validating them, which involves trips to APHIS-approved quarantine facilities, and international collaborations to trap the insect abroad. A related project is looking at whether the closely related species, Trogoderma variabile (warehouse beetle), can be used as a behavioral surrogate species for this pest to speed research and discoverGrain aeration and modelling of aeration is one approach at reducing the need for chemical inputs after harvest.

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Grain aeration and modelling of aeration is one approach at reducing

the need for chemical inputs after harvest.

Developing reduced-risk and organic strategies for managing stored product insects

Most food facilities use phosphine as a fumigant to treat stored product insect infestations. However, there is growing resistance to phosphine worldwide, and there is an increasing demand by consumers for organic or reduced-insecticide products even in the post-harvest supply chain. As a result, my lab is involved in evaluating reduced-risk or organic products to achieve control to help diversify IPM programs for food facilities. This includes evaluating the behavioral ecology and chemical ecology of insects after exposure to alternatives, in addition to assessing direct mortality and knockdown.

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Sitophilus oryzae, rice weevil, interacting with wheat inoculated with the

stored fungus Aspergillus flavus. Photo credit: M.A. Ponce.

Examining insect-microbe-commodity interactions at food facilities

Insects and microbes often co-occur together in the food supply chain, but are rarely considered together. However, microbes may change the grain environment in ways that promote insect development by increasing relative humidity and temperature in patches. Likewise, respiration by insects at higher densities and movement of microbes on the cuticle of insects may favor microbes. Further, there may be conserved chemical signals emitted by microbes that are attractive to stored product insects. Thus, our lab is investigating how we can leverage this knowledge to improve behaviorally-based pest management tactics for stored product insects.