Texas A&M Greenhouse and Nursery Webinar Series – 2020

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Greenhouse and Nursery Webinar Series

We are particularly excited about our Greenhouse and Nursery Webinar Series this year. This program has traditionally been a single-day in-person program with 5 speakers (Texas A&M Greenhouse and Nursery Symposium). However, due to concerns surrounding COVID-19 this year, we have opted for converting this program into a web series. This gives the attendees the ability to only register for talks that are most relevant to them and gives us the flexibility to invite speakers from all across the nation. See below for speaker and registration information.

When?

End of November till second week in December, from 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm each day. See speakers below for specific dates.

Where?

Online through Zoom. Registration is separate for each speaker. See below for details.
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Pradia and UpTake – Green Peach Aphid Suppression

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We tested Pradia as a foliar and three different drench rate applications, as well as KleenGrow as a foliar application, to suppress green peach aphids on potted pansies.

Pradia as a foliar application may have provided greater suppression by 3 days after treatment compared to the drench applications; however, all Pradia treatments (all drench rates and foliar application) provided very good suppression (>95%) of green peach aphids by 7 days after treatment.

KleenGrow provided suppression of aphids by 3 days after treatment (~50%), which resulted in reduced aphids throughout the trial.

For the full report, visit the publication in Arthropod Management Tests:

Erfan Vafaie, Christine Pawlik, Insecticidal Control of Green Peach Aphid on Pansies, 2020, Arthropod Management Tests, Volume 45, Issue 1, 2020, tsaa096, https://doi.org/10.1093/amt/tsaa096

Mean aphids (+/- standard error) per caged pansy for each treatment at 0, 3, 7, and 14 days after initial treatment application.

Landscape and Ornamental Pests

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This slide set is intended for the Master Volunteer Entomology Training on October 14th, 2020. The set contains information on general integrated pest management, basics of insect identification (larval forms), covers basics of some of the most common culprits (life cycles and identification), and covers management basics.

Landscape and Ornamental Pest Management Presentation Handout

Master Gardener Entomology Training – IPM V2

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The PDF presentation slide set provided in this post are an updated version of the IPM section of the master gardener entomology training. All other components stayed as the original and can be found here. The updated slide set contains additional information about insect trapping and pesticide toxicity.

2019 Texas A&M Greenhouse & Nursery Symposium

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Greenhouse and Nursery Symposium

We are particularly excited about our annual Greenhouse and Nursery Program held here in Overton, TX. We have a great line-up of speakers, including one many of you may be familiar with. Dr. Karl Steddom worked as a plant pathologist with Texas A&M before starting a career in remote sensing technologies, precision agriculture, and other ‘tech’-related ventures in agriculture with the company AGERpoint. We will also have some familiar faces coming back to deliver some topics time-relevant to our green industry personnel in Texas. See below for more details and we hope to see you here on December 3rd, 2019.

When?

December 3, 2019
Time: 8:30 am – 3:00 pm
Lunch is included.

Where?

Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center,
1710 N. FM 3053, Overton, TX
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Christine Bays – Extension Demonstration Technician

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Christine and David working on mealybug trialChristine Bays joined the Six-Legged Aggie Lab in May of 2019. She is a Sophomore at the University of Texas at Tyler and is earning her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry. Christine also works in an Ant Symbiosis Lab at UT Tyler, studying the relationship between fungus-gardening ants and their fungus. Christine is currently considering pursuing pharmacy school, assuming she doesn’t get bit by the ferocious entomology bug! 

This summer, Christine will be helping with research on crapemyrtle bark scale, whitefly biological control, mealybug insecticide efficacy, and other small research trials. We are excited to have her as a part of the six legged aggie team this summer.

In her free time, Christine likes to take care of the vegetable and flower gardens her family grows. She also enjoys playing video games, swimming, going to the movies, and drinking coffee. She also loves animals and has two cats of her own.

Guyana F2F Wrap-up: Trainings and Visits

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From June 16th till the 30th, I was in Guyana as a part of a two-week volunteer project through US AID Farmer-to-Farmer program, administered through Partners of the Americas. The whole first week was spent visiting farmers to learn about their pest challenges and pest management materials that can be sourced locally. You can read more about those visits in the four separate posts below:

During the last week, I conducted a series of workshops/trainings to help identify some of the key pests the farmers were facing and how to manage them; whether preventatively, physically, or even with the responsible use of pesticides.

Training Material

In the four posts I wrote after visiting the farms, I identify some of the key crop challenges. On some farms, we found: Fifty percent of young coconut trees lost to rhinoceros beetle, 60% loss of watermelons to rind necrosis, 100% of guava fruit lost to guava fruit fly, most of the soursop fruit containing soursop seed borer damage, tomato leaf curl virus vectored by whiteflies, bacterial leaf spot on peppers, and leafminers on shallots, just to name a few. I spent the better part of my first weekend in Guyana learning more about these particular pests, learning about locally available pesticides (and prices), and created some presentations on managing some of the identified challenges. If you’re interested, I have posted the presentations in PDF format and related resources for convenience: Farmer-to-Farmer: Guyana 2019 Resources

The Trainings

The setting of the trainings were, of course, rather different than what I am accustomed to in the US. In the US, we are indoors with air conditioning, have control of lighting & the environment in general, have reliable electricity, and breakfast consists of donuts and sweet tea. I was prepared to expect none of the above (I know… even the sweet tea!), since some of the locations we visited did not even have electricity. For our very first training, we used a gas-powered generator – and other than it being a bit loud (the generator) and a bit sweaty, it went rather smooth.

I feel inclined to mention that the generator ran out of gas about 3/4th of the way through, resulting in the projector spontaneously shutting off, but that didn’t slow us down too much. I talk a lot with my hands and can pretty convincing act like many of the insects that I’m describing.

*Be the aphid… be the aphid…*

Of course all of the farmer groups were incredibly attentive, but I certainly learned a lesson for next time. In my presentations, I was trying to provide as many resource and information as I could, relevant to their production. Sometimes that information would, for example, be a few different insecticides that they could rotate through, in order to minimize insecticide resistance. However, I noticed very quickly that no one was taking any notes. For some, it was because they were illiterate or very low level of literacy – of course they aren’t going to take notes! For others, I think a part of it is that they just never learned or thought to take notes. Only one group (The permaculture group) took notes throughout the presentation and asked for handouts/PDFs, likely due to the fact that they are all working professions in various fields that take up backyard farming as a hobby. Next time I do such a training program, I’ll have to consider methods of driving specific messages home, whether it be with physical gestures/actions, demonstrations, or repetition – all ways to help them remember the material, rather than relying on them taking notes.

I had a few other “firsts” – I have never had a situation in which my projector screen starts blowing away in the wind. Nor have I ever had to speak over goats or pigs right next to me while presenting. I would imagine that our livestock specialists have faced similar situations to that – but a bit unique for an entomologist.

One Last Farm Tour

After one of our trainings, one of the farmers (California Youth Group) was kind enough to show us more of their farm. This was the same farm we visited last week and ate all kinds of incredible fruit! Well, turns out, they have more and more plots of land, hidden behind creeks and more bush.

We had a blast tasting different fruit right off the tree (passion fruit and some species of citrus), as well as learning more about native plants, irrigation/drainage, and the opportunities for future Ag Tourism in the area.

The Last Leg

On my last official ‘working’ day in Guyana, I provided a workshop for the permaculture group. My presentation for them was quite different from the others for two reasons; (1) they are more interested in creating habitats to naturally suppress pests and some yield loss is tolerated, and (2) insect/disease identification needed strengthening (at least, from my experience visiting them the previous week). What’s surprising was that, although farming is just a hobby for this group, they are incredibly enthusiastic and delighted to learn more. I hope that their passion for farming leads them to seek future opportunities to help local farmers.

One of the things I taught this group was how to identify beneficial insects from pests, using lacewing eggs as one example. We have lacewing insects in the USA as well – a small green “fly” that lays eggs on single threads. The young (larvae) emerge from those eggs and look for soft-bodied insects to feed on. To the unacquainted eye, lacewing eggs can look like some type of fungus or mold and treated as such, but in fact, should be left alone to emerge and eat all of the bad bugs. It was particularly rewarding when the local F2F coordinator shared with me the next day a message that a member of the permaculture group had sent in a WhatsApp message, containing a great image of some lacewing eggs and the message “I was able to identify the lacewing eggs in the pic… learning is taking over”. Moments like these are incredibly rewarding – to know that the information you were trying to relay was assimilated and already being used by those in attendance!

The two weeks in Guyana were not only a great personal experience, but also a great opportunity professionally. I met many kind, generous, and hardworking souls, but also learned about some pests and diseases that are currently rare in Texas, but are important to recognize to prevent future outbreaks. They also have certain pests that we do not have yet – so being able to learn about them in Guyana will help any future research/work we need to do in Texas if they ever get here.

 

Guyana Farm Visit 4: Permaculture in Georgetown

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Today we visited an urban farmer group that pays special attention to permaculture. For those that aren’t familiar with permaculture, it’s a type of gardening or farming aimed at creating a self-sustaining ‘ecosystem’ that doesn’t require intervention to manage insect pests or weeds. This strategy, in theory anyway, relies on plants that do not interfere with each other and attract natural enemies (i.e. predators of pest insects). If plants are being attacked by an insect or disease, the typical ‘philosophy’ behind permaculture is that the plant doesn’t belong there anyway – so maximum crop or yield production is not the main or only goal.

I’m not certain whether it’s because these gardeners were using permaculture or because they are in an urban setting, but they had a lot of different kinds of insect pests. The variety of pests and diversity of plants made it a bit challenging to pin down just a few pests or diseases that were the most important – there was a lot of equally somewhat important pests.

Some of the insects I took particular note of were the blotch leafminer on basil, abundance of ant-sucking pest mutualisms, and the spiraling whitefly.

It was easy to mistake the blotch leafminer, at first glance, for some kind of downy mildew or other plant pathogen. The symptoms are circular and produce ‘wet spots’, as you’d expect in a bacterial infection. After doing some research online, I found out that it’s actually damage caused by a fly that lays an egg on the leaf. The larva then comes out and feeds within the tissue of the leaf, causing that blotching effect. Removing this pest in an organic permaculture setting is a bit challenging, but they can certainly reduce the populations by removing any leaves showing the symptoms – that will remove the larvae, and subsequently future adults from laying more eggs on the basil.

Sucking insect pests are often trying to get at the nitrogen in the plant sap, to make more proteins, and thus make more babies. All the insects just want to make more babies! To get said nitrogen, they need to go through a lot of plant sap – so they poop out the extra as a sugary solution, known as “honeydew”. This honeydew creates sticky surfaces on leaves and also acts as “food” for mixture of molds referring to as sooty mold. Well it turns out that ants really like this sugary solution, so they will actually provide protection for sucking insect pests in order to get more honeydew! This results in a positive-positive relationship between the sucking insect pest and the ants; the pest benefits by getting protection from predators by the ants, and the ants get alllll the poop juice they want! We call this type of relationship a ‘mutualistic’ relationship. A very common mutualism is between aphids and ants; so I always advise looking for aphids or other sucking insect pests if ants are seen running around on leaves and stems of plants. We didn’t see any shortage of such mutualisms in these gardens! This is also makes managing the aphids a bit trickier; killing the aphids will result in the ants just bringing them right back! A management strategy also needs to consider how to prevent the ants from beginning them back into the garden.

I also observed a reasonable amount of beneficial insects, mainly lady beetles (common referred to as “lady bugs”). Most people associate lady beetles with the large red beetles with black spots, and don’t always recognize different species or even the larvae. Above are some photos of some black lady beetles with black spots – resembling the twice stabbed lady beetle.

Any applied entomologists knows to look on the undersides of leaves for insects. As I was flipping some palm leaves, I was seeing these funny patterns – almost like crop circles made of white wax. I just neglected it for a while, thinking it was some kind of anomaly and not worth trying to figure out what it was, but kept seeing it more and more. I started finally seeing some at different stages of development and it blew my mind when I realized that they were whitefly eggs! The spiraling whitefly lays eggs in a spiraling/circular pattern and when they emerge, will start sucking on the plant (sucking insect pest!). After some time, they will eventually pupate and become winged adults. Kept unchecked, these whiteflies can apparently grow to some staggering numbers.

On the cassava leaves I also saw some ‘galls‘; growths formed by the plant in response to insect feeding or oviposition (laying of eggs). The culprit is often within the gall, sucking on the plant juices as the new plant growth provides protection for the insect. It’s a type of ‘manipulation’ of the plant by the insect, if you will, to make it protect itself from predators while feeding. Very few gall-forming insects are of concern in terms of crop yields, although they can be rather problematic for ornamental growers that are trying to sell the whole plant.

The permaculture group was quite different from the others; they weren’t ‘farmers’ per se, but rather gardener enthusiasts with full-time jobs. They reminded me, in a way, of master gardeners in Texas. They are passionate not just about growing food, but also learning about the insects, the plants, and having beautiful gardens. They interchange information on what to plant, share cuttings, and even share produce with each other. It was a great pleasure to walk around and learn about the gardening they are doing here.

Guyana Farm Visits Day 3: Holy Fruits Batman!

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Last Thursday, we visited a few farms in remote locations, referred to as “the bush” by the locals. Completely off the grid; using rain-water as their water supply, no need for electricity or using diesel generators when needed, fruits and vegetables everywhere, and the forest is your toilet. There are lots of mosquitoes in the forest… and monkeys… but let’s focus on the crops, not craps.

We went to a few farms all in close proximity. We were accompanied by someone from NAREI (National Agricultural Research & Extension Institute) which plays a similar role to Texas A&M AgriLife in Texas, and he acted as a bit of a guide to show some of the pests and diseases the growers were facing there. For starters, one of the farmers appeared to actually be quite an involved entrepreneur. Her business card states that she also owns a hotel, restaurant, and nightclub, and she has this parcel of land as a side-gig. Alas, her guava alone was 100% infested by a fruit fly species, most likely the guava fruit fly (Bactrocera correcta). The fruit fly lays its eggs in the fruit and the larvae consume the insides; not unlike the spotted wing drosophila problem we have been facing in the continental USA since 2008, which effects pretty much all soft-bodied fruit. Spinosad, a toxin created by the soil bacterium Saccharopolyspora spinosa, is considered an effective insecticide against this pest, however I couldn’t find any registered spinosad products available in Guyana. The next best thing is to go for sanitation; the larvae stay in the fruit and come out as new adults after the fruit has fallen off the tree. The fruit need to be collected regularly, bagged & solarized or buried deep in the ground. This will, over  time, greatly reduce the fly populations in their area.

One of the most hard-hit fruit here appears to be the Soursop, which I mentioned in one of my earliest posts. The farms we visited appeared to have consistent bore holes caused by the soursop seed borer; a wasp that uses a long ovipositor (organ used to lay eggs) to lay eggs inside the seeds of the soursop fruit when it’s small. The larvae stay within the fruit and eat the seeds, pupate (similar to a ‘cocoon’ in butterflies) and come out of the fruit as new wasps, creating those bore holes (seen below). The soursop fruit also have a few species of scale insects and mealybugs that also seem to attack it. The species that are on the fruit resemble a species of snow scale, pink hibiscus mealybug, and breadfruit mealybug. It also doesn’t help that there are ants that appear to be tending the scale and/or mealybugs – a common mutualistic relationship between ants and sucking insect pests, where ants where eat the sugary solution excreted from the sucking insect pest and in return, provide them with protection from predators. Since soursop is considered a relatively high-value crop, it may be feasible to bag with plastic or fine mesh around the fruit when small (less than 5 cm in diameter) to prevent the wasp from laying eggs. Once the fruit is larger than that diameter, the wasp’s ovipositor is not long enough to get to the seed – so larger fruit are at a greatly reduced risk. However, before bagging, the fruit need to be cleaned of any scales or mealybugs, with a brush and water/soap solution, otherwise the scale may do very very inside the bag (due to exclusion of predators).

However, when you’re out and about on these farms, it’s not all work and no play. These farmers are incredibly generous and loved to feed us. Starting with some coconuts right off the tree to quench our thirst, we then started eating fruit that I had never heard of before. Sapodilla, rose apple, sugar apple, and ‘peach’ (which is not like our peach at all and I’m having difficulty finding the correct taxonomic name for it!), just to name a few. I also saw Pomelo larger than I have ever seen before! Pomelo is considered one of the original citrus species, which many other species are hybrids of. The textures, flavors, and aromas of these fruit are nothing like I have had before, so it’s hard to give them some context or explain them. All I can say is that they have a great abundance of it and they are incredibly delicious!

An interesting conversation we had this day with NAREI employee was the meaning of “poverty” – whether its just a state of mind. These people in ‘the bush’ have nothing, but have everything! Their dwelling was incredibly simple, no tech or connectivity to the world, very few manufactured material possessions, but they had land rich in food and a beautiful landscape. In one way it made me appreciate the things I do have, but also makes me reflect on what we truly need to be ‘prosperous’.

Below are a few more relevant photos from this day of farm touring, without too much elaboration.