Pests – both insects and animals – and invasive plants certainly impact our agricultural efforts. Of course these pests also threaten the health of humans. For these reasons, Texas A&M AgriLife strives to detect, monitor, and mitigate insect vector-borne diseases and invasive plants.
Current research projects focus on improved detection methods for pathogens and vectors to predict and manage epidemics and better control tactics and management strategies. Through these efforts we also plan to develop vaccines to protect people, animals, and plants.
- AgriLife Research and Extension worked with the Texas Department of Agriculture to obtain a Section 18 exemption from the Environmental Protection Agency for an unlabeled but effective insecticide to respond to invasive sugarcane aphids. Producer groups estimated savings of at least $160 million in 2014 alone.
- Integrated pest management (IPM) production systems – developed at the Beaumont Center – for rice water weevil, rice stinkbug, and stem borers have reduced yield loss to rice by about 5% annually, resulting in a savings of $8.1 million per year for producers.
Current Projects & Selected Accomplishments
Zebra chip on potatoes
Charles M. Rush and Ada Szczepaniec are teaming up to help potato producers understand and mitigate the effects of the zebra chip pathogen, Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum, which is vectored by the potato psyllid. More than five years of research has resulted in no devastating outbreaks, but ongoing research is looking at the development of resistance to one of the key insecticide modes – neonicotinoids – currently being used to battle the psyllid, and thus the disease.
Pest management and treatments for rice
Dr. M. O. Way’s entomology research program led to the development of insecticidal seed treatments and the development of cost-effective and sustainable rice integrated pest management (IPM) production systems. Approximately 60% of Texas rice-producing acreage receives IPM treatments, which minimize pesticide drift.
Pest Management strategies
The Pest Management and Plant Stress group is focusing their research on tactics that improve the resilience of plants to abiotic and biotic stress and enhance sustainability and profitability of row crop and vegetable production in Texas. Specifically, they are examining how water deficit affects interactions between plants and arthropod-vectored pathogens and the impact of these interactions on pest and disease epidemiology in crops (wheat, corn, sorghum) and vegetables (potatoes and tomatoes.)
Mesquite & prickly pear control
The Vernon center has provided the most complete published data set in the world related to summer prescribed burning for mesquite and prickly pear cactus control.
Non toxic methods to control red ant populations
Red fire ants are a chronic pest in Texas that present medical, animal health, and agricultural challenges. Chemical controls are the most common used method for managing red ant colonies. Scientists at the Stephenville Center are studying two common pathogens and viruses that have co-evolved with ants. Through hormone interaction and allowing the co-evolved pathogens to dominate, it may be possible to biologically control the growth of the red ant population. This non toxic method could be useful in residential area.