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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory » Research » Research Project #420762

Research Project: Insect Management Systems for Urban Small Farms and Gardens

Location: Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-22000-272-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Dec 2, 2010
End Date: Oct 25, 2015

This project has the long-term objective to develop and improve diverse biologically based controls for insects in vegetable crops for urban small farms and gardens, considering both organic and non-organic production. Research will target insect pests that cause major damage to several of the most common crops in small vegetable farms and gardens in urban settings, and for which there is potential to shift from synthetic chemical control strategies to bio-based strategies. The main focus will be pests of cole crops, cucurbits, and vegetable seeds and seedlings, although other important crops may receive attention for specific problems. The specific objectives are to: (1) Identify, synthesize (including in vitro biosynthesis) and evaluate semiochemicals to manage significant insect pests of small farms and gardens; (2) Discover and develop systems to conserve and augment key natural enemies of small farms and gardens, using pheromones and other attractants, specially-adapted crop cultivars, and food provisioning through plant and supplemental sources; (3) Identify effective microbial controls for key pests of small farms and gardens, including discovery of molecular and ecological mechanisms for sustained field reproduction and persistence, using Bt, baculoviruses, and other entomopathogens; (4) Determine genetic basis of plant defense mechanisms of high-value crops of small farms or gardens (such as cole crops) against destructive insects, including pest aversion and resistance; and (5) Develop predictive tools for measurement of pest suppression and damage for evaluation of farm and garden habitats.

The project brings together a research team with diverse expertise for multiple approaches to insect management. Those approaches will include discovery, commercially-viable synthesis, and deployment of natural insect attractants for harlequin bug, brown marmorated stink bug, other pestiferous true bugs, and striped cucumber beetle, using electrophysiology and diverse cutting-edge chemical diagnostic methods, multipronged methods of chemical and in vitro sythesis, formulation development, and investigation of insect behavioral response in the field. Conservation and augmentation of generalist predators (including predatory stink bugs and lacewings) will use existing and discovered male-produced aggregation pheromones, coupled with new approaches to assessing biological control impact on important vegetable pests. Pest-specific microbial controls will be targeted to identify and evaluate bacterial strains (particularly Bt) which can survive and colonize crops under field conditions, and baculoviruses which are efficacious against key vegetable pests. Plant resistance investigations for cole crops will take an innovative approach using molecular-based gene discovery. The combination of semiochemical and biological controls, including microbial controls, and crop resistance, will offer a range of non-chemical tactics useful to a bio-based integrated pest management strategy for major vegetable pests in urban small farms and gardens.