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Harnessing Chemical Ecology to Address Agricultural Pest and Pollinator Priorities

Principal Investigator/Project Leader: 
Department of Project: 
Stockbridge School of Agriculture
Project Description: 

The plum curculio is an extremely destructive key pest of stone and pome fruit in commercial orchards in eastern North America. In fact, in a survey of over 100 MA and RI apple growers (conducted in mid-April 2018 by J. Piñero) this insect pest ranked first in importance. Conventional growers typically apply broad-spectrum insecticides to control plum curculio. The main goal of this project is to evaluate the attractiveness of aromatic compounds to overwintered plum curculio and to other early-season pests. One primary impediment to the adoption by growers of an innovative 'attract-and-kill' approach involving odor-baited trap trees that was developed by UMass around 20006 is the cost associated with the purchase of lures. If this project could show that aromatic compounds increase the response of plum curculio to trap trees, then those findings would drive the costs down by reducing the number of trap trees needed to control plum curculio. In addition, if research could show that other pests respond to aromatic compounds, that information would lead to improved monitoring systems for those pests.
A second component of the project involves the invasive spotted wing drosophila (SWD). Massachusetts is experiencing a state-wide infestation of SWD, a devastating pest of berry crops (brambles, blueberries, day neutral strawberries and grapes) and some stone fruits (cherry, nectarine and peach). While most commonly encountered fruit (or vinegar) flies typically infest over-ripe or damaged fruit, SWD is different in that it attacks healthy, ripening fruit. Growers have voiced the need to conduct research (see letters of support) on more sustainable approaches to suppress SWD populations. The successful development of a mass trapping system could help suppress SWD populations before crop harvest, potentially resulting in less insecticide being applied to crops. Research on To develop and evaluate a grower-friendly mass trapping system to reduce SWD populations. The grower-friendly attract-and-kill system for SWD management is expected to aid in the reduction of SWD populations before harvest, potentially making insecticide applications more effective.

Agriculture topics: