Pest Management

Current Projects


Many of the Rodale Institute research projects over the years have dealt with insect and disease pest pressure, but we’ve just recently launched into a collaborative project focusing on organic management of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.

Using Roller Crimper Technology, Cover Crops, and Insectary Strips to Improve Organic Vegetable Cropping Competitiveness in Pennsylvania 

Weeds and insects are two of the biggest impediments to competitive organic vegetable production. In intensive organic vegetable production, cucurbit growers rely heavily on tillage and plastic mulch for weed control and use of organic pesticides to control striped cucumber beetles from damaging cucumber fruits and transmitting bacterial wilt disease. While plastic mulches are relatively inexpensive, repeated tillage is expensive and both have negative consequences on soil health and the environment. Organic insecticides are costly and have negative impact on the diversity and densities of beneficial and predatory insects.

The three-year project (2015-2018) is funded via grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s (PDA) Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) Program, Grant Agreement Number ME44155558, and the Orange County Community Foundation, Grant Award Number NEDA1634887. The overall goal of this project is to improve organic specialty crop growers’ competitiveness by assessing the impact of integrated systems on weed management, soil health, pest management, and cucumber yield and quality compared to standard practices, and to disseminate information gained from this project to specialty crop growers and interested clientele using local, regional and national educational venues. These systems include rolled cover crop mulches and insectary strips as compared to plastic mulch and no insectary strips.

Rodale Institute Project Team:
Dr. Gladis Zinati, Associate Research Scientist  and Principal Investigator, Dr. Andrew Smith, Director of Vegetable Systems Trial, Dr. Kris Nichols, Chief Scientist, Jeff Moyer, Executive Director, Tara Caton, Senior Lab Technician, Ross Duffield, Farm Manager, Dan Kemper, Field Foreman, and Maggie Saka, Greenhouse Production Specialist.  Dr. Zinati oversees the project at Rodale Institute including directing and coordinating research activities, education events and outreach activities.

Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey Research Partner:
Dr. Joseph Ingerson-Mahar, Vegetable IPM Program Coordinator; specialist in identifying ground beetles species.

Farmer Collaborator:
Michael and Will Brownback, Owners of Spiral Path Farm, Lancaster, PA; Co-coordinators of growers’ workshop at the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA), PA in winter 2017 and set up an example of insectary strips for cucumber production at their fields in 2017.

Resources:

Rotational No-Till & Insectary Strips for Organic Cucumber Production, February 9, 2017
Organic Matter: No-Till and Insectary Strips for Organic Cucumber Production, April 12, 2017
What do yellow sticky cards tell us about beneficial insects and pests?, April 21, 2017
Using Flowers as Natural Pest Control for Organic Vegetable Production, May 4, 2017
New Farm Magazine: Squash System Comparison, October 25, 2017
Flowering Insectary Strips Provide Habitat for Beneficial Insects for the Control of Striped Cucumber Beetle, December 19, 2017


Verification of Parasitism and Bacterial Wilt in Striped Cucumber Beetles Using Molecular Analyses

Striped cucumber beetle (SCB) (Acalymma vittatum) is a major pest of Cucurbitaceae crops across the Northeast and it is considered the principle vector of Erwinia tracheiphila, the causal agent of bacterial wilt, upon feeding on the foliage of cucurbit plants. Larvae and adult growth stages cause economic damage directly by feeding on plant roots, stems, flowers, leaves and fruits. Cucumber and muskmelon are highly susceptible to bacterial wilt yield loss up to 80%. Little is known about the natural enemies of striped cucumber beetles and biological control methods of SCB.

In a laboratory incubation experiment, adults of tachinid fly (Celatoria setosa), a parasitoid, a beneficial insect, emerged from striped cucumber beetles collected from different management systems during the growing season. In addition, no wilting of cucumber plants was observed despite the feeding of SCB on plants. These two observations prompted us using molecular techniques to verify parasitism and infection by the pathogen causing wilt disease.  The specific objectives of this project are to 1) determine whether cucumber beetles and parasitoids collected over three different dates are carriers of the E. tracheiphila pathogen, and 2) determine percent parasitism of collected striped cucumber beetles by the tachinid fly and braconid wasp in various management systems at three different dates in 2016. This project work is funded by a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Grant, Grant Agreement Number ME44166121.

Rodale Institute Project Team:
Dr. Gladis Zinati, Associate Research Scientist  and Principal Investigator, Dr. Andrew Smith, Director of Vegetable Systems Trial, Dr. Kris Nichols, Chief Scientist, and Tara Caton, Senior Lab Technician.  Dr. Zinati oversees the project at Rodale Institute including research and outreach activities.

Resources:

Verification of Parasitism of Striped Cucumber Beetles and Bacterial Wilt of Cucurbits Using Molecular Analyses, December 18, 2017


Linking Phytochemicals and Nutrients in Cucumber Plants to Cucumber Beetle Parasitism and Transmission of Bacterial Wilt

In 2015, Dr. Zinati began work on this pathosystem in an organic cucumber production system, assessing the impact of insectary strips and different soil mulch practices on insect and disease pressure by promoting beneficial insects, and improving soil and plant health. One interesting observation was that cucumber plants grown in plastic and rolled cover crop mulches did not show any wilting despite the high number of beetles and feeding injury on fruits. This led Dr. Zinati to question whether (a) the beetles were not infected by the pathogenic bacteria, (b) beetle parasitism was higher than reported based on visual inspection which affected the beetles ability to infect the plants, or (c) the beetles were infected by the pathogenic bacteria but the plants did not express the wilt due to enhanced induced plant defenses.

A research project funded via grants from Frontier Natural Products Cooperative and the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association (PVGA),was initiated in 2017.  The goal of this project is to track parasitism, E. tracheiphila in beetles and plants, and plant phytochemicals over time using molecular techniques to determine what factors limit cucumber beetle densities and bacterial wilt incidence in severity in different organic management systems.  This information will provide evidence to growers about different management techniques they can use to effectively manage this pathosystem.

Rodale Institute Project Team:
Dr. Gladis Zinati, Associate Research Scientist  and Principle Investigator, Tara Caton, Senior Lab Technician, Dr. Andrew Smith, Director of Vegetable Systems Trial, and Dr. Kris Nichols, Chief Scientist.  Dr. Zinati oversees the project at Rodale Institute including research and outreach activities.

Mississippi State University:
Dr. Casey Barickman, Assistant Research/Extension Professor at Mississippi State University, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, collaborator on this project to assess phytochemicals in cucumber leaves.


Whole-farm Organic Management of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and Endemic Pentatomids through Behavior-based Habitat Manipulation

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) has become a significant threat to US agriculture since its introduction, causing severe losses for organic farmers in a wide variety of crops. Little to no information is available on organic management of this invasive pest. This national project is funded by USDA - NIFA OREI program # 2012-51300-20097 with Dr. Anne Nielsen at Rutgers University as the project director. This national organic task force was developed to define and address the threat posed by BMSB and includes organic farmers, researchers, extension personnel, and regulatory officials. Our goal is to rapidly develop BMSB management techniques based around a better understanding of BMSB dispersal and whole-farm movement and the application of core organic pest management principles including: enhancing natural enemy activity, habitat manipulation and crop barriers. Rodale will contribute to this effort, which includes support or involvement of 25 researchers, 3 organic organizations, and 12 organic farmers.

Rodale Institute Project Team:
Dr. Gladis Zinati and Mr. Jeff Moyer are Project Investigators. They oversee the project at Rodale Institute including directing and coordinating research activities, education events and outreach activities.

Resources:

Organic Management of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB), November 18, 2015
Identifying the brown marmorated stink bug
Update on BMSB at Rodale Institute(OREI Mtg, January 7, 2013)
Monitoring for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Rutgers University)
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug in Organic Farming Systems (Facebook Page)