Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Byron, Georgia » Fruit and Tree Nut Research » Research » Research Project #434092

Research Project: Applied Invertebrate Pathology and Microbial Control for Protection Against Homopteran and Curculionid Pests

Location: Fruit and Tree Nut Research

Project Number: 6042-22000-024-003-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Feb 1, 2018
End Date: Jan 31, 2023

The overall objective is to enhance sustainable pest management of key curculionid and homopteran pests of in orchards and other crops through the development of microbial control methods. The University of Georgia (Cooperator) and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are undertaking this cooperative project for the purpose of developing methodology in microbial control that will be mutually beneficial in suppressing key curculionid and homopteran pests of interest. Key pests in orchards and other crops are still primarily controlled through the use of broad spectrum chemical insecticides. Such insecticides can cause secondary pest outbreaks, resistance and harm humans and other nontarget organisms. Therefore, alternative methods of insect pest management must be developed. Microbial control can be a viable and sustainable replacement technology for chemical insecticides. Specific objectives include: 1) Enhance production, application, and formulation technology for microbial control agents (particularly entomopathogenic nematodes and fungi) for application to pecan, peach and other crops especially targeting homopteran and curculionid pests; 2) Improve genetic stability in entomopathogenic nematodes; 3) evaluate new isolates of entomopathogenic fungi against whiteflies and other pests; and 4) enhance basic understanding of infection dynamics in entomopathogenic nematodes and fungi.

In a systems approach involving fundamental and applied components, University of Georgia will assist Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in conducting research to develop or enhance microbial control technology for suppression of key insect pests. Main pests of interest will include homopterans (aphids, whiteflies) and curculionids (such as pecan weevil and plum curculio). The newly developed microbial control strategies will be applied to various cropping systems such as pecan, peach and row crops. Specifically, the University of Georgia will assist ARS in the following approaches: 1) In vivo and in vitro production technology for entomopathogenic nematodes will be enhanced through automation and media development, 2) The team will explore novel endophytic fungal applications in pecan. 3) Optimization of protective gel formulations for microbial applications will be investigated for environmental protection of microbial agents, 4) The team will conduct experiments to test strain stability through the generation of homozygous inbred lines in entomopathogenic nematodes, 5) Newly discovered entomopathogenic fungal strains will be compared in bioassays for virulence relative to existing strains and field testing of the most promising strains will follow, 6) The team will elucidate infection dynamics of entomopathogenic nematodes by studying group movement behavior and signaling based on pheromone interactions. The results of the various research components will be published in refereed journals, trade magazines, or extension articles, presented at professional and grower meetings. Information from the research will be integrated and formulated into improved pest management strategies.