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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Gainesville, Florida » Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology » Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research » Research » Research Project #442995

Research Project: Managing Invasive Weeds and Insect Pests Using Biologically-Based Methods

Location: Insect Behavior and Biocontrol Research

Project Number: 6036-22000-033-016-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2022
End Date: Aug 31, 2027

To develop biologically based solutions to control invasive insect pests on vegetables and small fruits, invasive weeds and to improve the health of pollinators.

The particular techniques of interest include classical biological control, chemical ecology, inundative and conservation biological control of both insects and plants. Of particular interest are management of emerging and pesticide resistant pests, such as the Q biotype whitefly in vegetable production systems, and invasive weeds of north Florida such as Chinese tallow. Interactions between pollinators, invasive weeds, and companion crops will also be investigated to provide best management practices. This project will be used to develop and demonstrate novel biologically based Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies. Results of this research will provide specific solutions to targeted problems for agricultural producers, while also having broad applicability to other agricultural systems. The cooperator will provide the needed expertise in insect ecology, intraguild interactions, monitoring techniques, organic field and high tunnel systems, honey bee management and for development of management programs. Vegetable and small fruit production is a primary industry in Florida with whiteflies considered one of the most impactful threats, especially since the detection of the insecticide resistant Q-biotype in the open field environment in Florida. Small farms and organic producers are particularly challenged for management tools that are effective against this pesticide-resistant pest. Development of strategies involving natural enemies and behavioral modification through use of natural repellents are particularly promising approaches. In addition to emerging insect pests, invasive weeds are an increasing threat to southeastern agriculture. Invasive weeds impact agricultural settings, providing refugee for emerging pests and directly competing with crops. Additionally, invasive weeds can greatly impact rangeland and forestry, impacting the commercial viability of these operations and reducing important ecosystem services and functions from these areas. Targeted control through use of natural biological control agents can provide highly effective and ecologically sound management of these invasive weeds. Recent challenges have been identified for migratory, managed honey bee hives as these producers can rely on invasive weed species to nourish their honey bees. Since flowering weeds and companion crops may support pollinators, assessment of their management and pollinator health are important considerations.