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Issue: May/June 2007
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Northern PlainFacts.

Issue: May/June 2007

The Northern PlainFacts electronic newsletter offers brief updates on research, personnel, and events from both the Agricultural Systems Research Unit and Pest Management Research Unit at NPARL, and includes contact names and information for those interested in further details. 

In This Month's Issue:


Students tour Montana ARS Research Lab

History Channel to feature ARS grasshopper research work
ARS technician provides weed ID training for sprayer program 
ARS, Utah State insect pathologists discuss collaborations
ARS, APHIS again partner in Mormon cricket biocontrol research

ARS researchers to speak at 2007 field day 
ARS entomologist trains Georgian scientists in insect pathology
ARS entomologist to train Georgian scientists in insect pathology.
Stefan Jaronski, Research Entomologist at the USDA-ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory, Sidney MT, will be traveling to Tbilisi Georgia June 25-July 9, to continue training scientists and students at the Georgian Institute for Plant Protection in insect pathology methods and to conduct a joint field trial of an insect pathogenic fungus against locusts in that country. His visit and activities are part of a collaboration between ARS, the Volcani Institute of Israel, University of Wyoming and Georgia, with funding by the US Agency for International Development. As part of the project he previously hosted a Georgian scientist in his lab in 2005, spent two weeks in that country conducting initial training in 2006, and will be hosting a Georgian student later this year. The collaboration is to provide training in the fundamental principles of locust biological control through the use of native pathogens. From these principles, the Georgian colleagues will derive and adapt the development of methods and agents that meet the particular social, cultural, economic, political, and ecological needs of their country. The goal is to "walk-through" the process of applying these principles using a model system for which there is both significant practical use and substantial operational potential. The process involves a two-tier approach of laboratory and field research under local conditions while maintaining the scientific and analytical rigor necessary to optimize the development of a viable mycoinsecticide. Despite the capacity of the Georgian scientists in the field of plant protection, there is only limited expertise in the field of insect pathology. The particularities of insect diseases are such that special training in this field is necessary before substantial progress can be made with regard to the development of microbial insecticides or similar products. The goal is to build the base of practical and usable knowledge in the principles and practices of insect pathology, biological control, quantitative analyses, and environmental assessment necessary for the Georgian scientists to initiate and sustain a research capacity in this realm and to leave behind a sustainable base of equipment, supplies, experience, and knowledge that continues to explore new avenues of biological control based on a collaboratively developed and refined "prototypical" program.

(Stefan Jaronski, 406.433.9486,


ARS researchers to speak at 2007 field day.

ARS Weed Ecologist Andy Lenssen and Soil Scientists Brett Allen and Upendra Sainju, all with NPARL's Agricultural Systems Research Unit, are among the featured speakers at the annual Froid (MT) Research Farm Tour to be held Thursday, June 28. The tour includes two-sessions; first the off-farm portion will tour a feed lot near Reserve, MT, where the owner and personnel from the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in Plentywood will discuss the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) guidelines used to build the feedlot. The next stop at the Medicine Lake Wildlife Refuge will feature discussions on the Refuge's custom burning practices, grazing policies and grassland management. The tour will then return to the Froid Research Farm around noon for a steak dinner sponsored by the Sheridan and Roosevelt County Conservation Districts to be followed by the on-farm tour. The on-farm portion will feature a talk on precision agriculture from CHS Precision Crop Management personnel and a presentation by Jim Sargent from Montana Farmers Union on a new carbon credits program that group is administering for producers in Eastern Montana. In a related talk, Dr. Sainju will offer data on the differing amounts of carbon sequestered by area crops in a long-term agronomics trial at the farm. Immediately following, NPARL scientists Andy Lenssen and Brett Allen will introduce their new durum and oilseed rotation study, which will incorporate oilseeds used for both biodiesel and food grade oil production. This study will be followed by an update from officials with Montola/Sustainable Systems, a local oilseed processing facility in Culbertson, MT. Dr. Lenssen will then conclude the tour with information on a recent study looking at weed emergence after rolling. The tour is sponsored by the Sheridan and Roosevelt County Conservation Districts, the USDA-ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory, and the Roosevelt County Extension Office.

(Bob Evans, 406.433.9496,

(Brett Allen, 406.433.9402,

(Andy Lenssen, 406.433.9471,

(Upendra Sainju, 406.433.9408,

ARS, APHIS again partner in Mormon cricket biocontrol research.

USDA APHIS and ARS NPARL are jointly evaluating fungal biocontrol agents of Mormon crickets at Sidney MT in June and July. R. Nelson Foster, of the APHIS PPQ Decision Support and Pest Management Systems Laboratory, Phoenix AZ, and his staff, Chris Reuter and Lonnie Black, are visiting Dr. Stefan Jaronski, ARS grasshopper pathologist at the Sidney lab the first week in June, to help set up a cooperative field trial evaluating three microbial control agents against Mormon crickets at Sidney. They are studying the efficacy of two US-registered fungi, Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium anisopliae, as well as a third new isolate of the latter fungus, as affected by field and Mormon cricket body temperatures. In addition to help setting up the trial, the APHIS group also joined Jaronski in collecting Mormon crickets for the study Sunday, near Hardin MT, because the insect is not very numerous at Sidney, where a trial can be closely monitored for the required six-week observation period. The trial will be conducted in enclosures near the ARS location, where Jaronski and his staff monitor for efficacy and conduct parallel microbiological experiments in the laboratory. Foster and Jaronski have been working closely since 2003 on understanding how microbial agents can be better utilized to manage grasshopper and Mormon cricket populations. In parallel work APHIS is jointly sponsoring a student intern at Sidney, Mr. Justin Harper, Montana State University - Billings, to work with Dr. Jaronski in evaluating novel UV protectants that could prolong the persistence of these microbial agents on rangeland. This is the second year APHIS and ARS in Sidney, MT have cooperated on the Mormon cricket field trials.


(Stefan Jaronski, 406.433.9486,



ARS, Utah State insect pathologists discuss potential collaborations.

Dr. Don Roberts of Utah State University, his graduate student, Ms. Laurel Johnston, and his post doctoral associate, Dr. Everton K.K. Fernandes visited the Sidney, Montana ARS facility May 31- June 1 to meet with Dr. Stefan Jaronski, Acting Research Leader of the facility's Pest Management Research Unit. Drs. Roberts and Jaronski were meeting to discuss their respective insect pathology research and techniques with grasshoppers and to explore future collaborations in the field.


(Stefan Jaronski, 406.433.9486,



ARS technician provides weed ID training for sprayer program.

NPARL Biological Science Technician Kimberly Mann led a weed ID workshop as part of a 7-county Weed Sprayer Training Day held in Sidney, MT, May 31st. Approximately 45 Northeastern (MT) Area weed coordinators participated in the event, which in addition to the weed ID workshop included sessions on first aid and 4-wheeler training as well as presentations from representatives of Helena Chemical and the Montana Department of Agriculture's Compliance division. Mann is a member of the Sidney, MT ARS lab's Pest Management Research Unit and regularly provides weed identification workshops for a number of different groups throughout the year.


(Kim Mann, 406.433.9428,

History Channel series to feature work by ARS grasshopper researchers.
Lights! Camera! Action! The USDA-ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory's (NPARL) Tech Transfer Room was transformed into a make-shift television studio May 21st when a production company from Los Angeles arrived to interview NPARL scientists working on grasshoppers and Mormon crickets for a new episode on the History Channel's "Mega Disaster" series entitled "A Perfect Swarm." The three-man crew talked with Sidney, MT ARS scientists Dave Branson and Robert Srygley and taped a couple of lab experiments conducted by Branson and Biological Science Technician Laura Senior. The "Mega Disaster" series combines science and history to re-examine early massive natural disasters, visiting sites of previous disasters and asking "how today's world would hold up to such fury." The inspiration for "A Perfect Swarm" came from the book "Locust" by University of Wyoming grasshopper specialist Dr. Jeffrey Lockwood, which examines the devastating rise and mysterious disappearance of the Rocky Mountain locust and its impact on the American frontier. The History Channel episode asks whether such huge infestations could occur today through the reemergence of the Rocky Mountain locust, ocean crossings of an African locust or land migrations of the Mexican desert locust. The first two scenarios drew dubious smiles from the scientists who labeled them science fiction not science, but the latter question, while unlikely, is not so far-fetched, they indicated. In addition to the recent footage from their visit to NPARL, the History Channel crew will also film an NPARL Mormon cricket field trip in Utah later this summer for the same program. While no date has yet been set, "A Perfect Swarm" is expected to air on the History Channel sometime in November or December, according to producer Andy Papadopoulus.
(Dave Branson, 406.433.9406,
(Robert Srygley, 406,433,9420,
(Laura Senior, 406.433.9498,


Students tour Montana ARS Research Lab.
Students from three area schools toured the USDA-ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory in Sidney, MT in May, the last group visiting on Thursday, May 24th. The students involved ranged from 4th to 8th graders from Fairview and Sidney, MT elementary and middle schools. In addition to touring the facility, the young people heard from several NPARL scientists and technicians regarding their research before finishing off their visits with a spirited game of "Jeopardy." The students competed in five categories, reflecting the information gained from their tour of the ARS lab. The categories included: Soils, Plants, Crops, DNA, and Careers. To aid students in the game, tour leaders rang a bell to signal whenever an item featured in a "Jeopardy" question was mentioned on the tour, a system that, when combined with the game itself, significantly improved the students' retention of what they had learned, according to one teacher. Giving talks or demonstrations for one or more of the school groups visiting NPARL were ARS Botanist John Gaskin and Microbiologist TheCan Caesar, along with Technicians Mo O'Mara, Lyn Solberg-Rodier, Kim Mann, Deb Waters and Laura Senior.
(Beth Redlin, 406.433.9427,

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