Current Critical Issues Projects

Each year, the North Central IPM Center chooses to fund research projects related to important pest concerns; the pests may threaten crop productivity or human health or safety. Funding may be awarded to Critical Issue Projects that provides opportunity to better understand a pest's biology or that seek ways to better manage the pest (or both). Pest threats may include diseases, weeds or insects. Learn more about the details of our Critical Issues grant opportunities and how to apply.

Past Critical Issues Projects

 

Certified Crop Advisor Perspectives & Practices Regarding Pest Resistance

Project Director: Katherine Dentzman, Iowa State University

Over the past decade, social science research on pest resistance management has centered on growers. One major finding is that there is a need for collaborative, community-based management to encourage the use of diverse pest management methods, or integrated pest management.

Fundamental to any collaborative management is the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders. For pest resistance management, this includes growers as well as those who influence and advise them. To make progress, it is now necessary to understand the perspectives and practices of their influencers and advisors.

An exploratory attempt at understanding Certified Crop Advisors (CCAs) perspectives is currently underway, with the Weed Science Society of America facilitating a series of regional listening sessions with crop advisors over the winter of 2021/2022. This work will be expanded by conducting a representative survey of CCAs in the U.S. This would parallel a previous national survey of farmers completed in 2016, aiding in our understanding of how CCAs think, communicate, and contribute to on-farm pest resistance management decisions.  

Objectives

  • Conducting a nationally representative survey on Certified Crop Advisors’ perspectives and practices related to pest resistance management

    • Test and expand on findings from listening sessions
    • Conduct regional and statewide comparative analyses, determining where CCAs are most effective and where they may need additional training or support.
  • Comparing CCA perspectives and recommendations with what growers think and do about pest resistance.
  • Prepare manuscripts for peer-reviewed academic journals, extension publications, and news media (including media specifically targeted at the formal CCA organization)
  • Present findings at academic conferences and a CCA-supported webinar
  • Use the approach and findings of this study to support a USDA AFRI grant proposal to expand this research to additional stakeholder groups
     

Slowing the Spread: Monitoring and Extension Efforts to Mitigate Impacts of Spotted Lanternfly

Project Director: Ashley Leach, Ohio State University

Spotted lanternfly (SLF), Lycorma delicatula, is a new invasive insect making headlines nationwide. Initially detected in Pennsylvania in 2014, SLF has swiftly moved through the MidAtlantic, with recent establishment in Ohio. SLF’s rapid expansion is owed to its broad host range of over 100 plant species, high fecundity, and inconspicuous life stages. Adult SLF can reach almost incomprehensible densities, often coating the surface of host plants. SLF is a public nuisance, impacting urban landscaping and backyard trees. Large infestations can kill plants or weaken them to opportunistic pests and/or diseases. Further, SLF adults produce copious amounts of honeydew which can cover cars and backyards, as well as provide ample medium for plant diseases. Many common ornamental trees like maple, walnut, willow and birch are favored host plants of SLF, and SLF can also feed on many agricultural commodities including apple, cherry, hop, and grape. Notably, many of these commodities are major specialty crops within the Midwest.

Objectives

  • Develop and distribute novel extension resources to increase stakeholder knowledge of SLF identification and biology
  • Monitor SLF eDNA within vulnerable urban and agricultural ecosystems
     

Characterizing the Ecology of the Invasive Asian Longhorned Tick to Inform Integrated Management

Project Director: Andreas Eleftheriou, Ohio State University

The Asian longhorned tick (ALT, Haemaphysalis longicornis) from East Asia is a serious pest of livestock. Since its formal discovery in the United States in 2017, this tick has spread from New Jersey to 16 other states, primarily because an adult female can lay more than 2,000 eggs via asexual reproduction, leading to rapidly growing populations and large infestations per host. To date, ALT life-stages have been found on at least 26 species, including humans, livestock, pets, and wildlife, the latter of which could easily spread ALTs to distant areas. In its introduced range in other countries, ALT causes extensive livestock infestations, leading to low production, hide damage, and even death from severe blood loss. ALT also transmits infectious diseases, such as theileriosis, which can be fatal, as demonstrated recently in Virginia, where several cattle deaths were attributed to theileriosis transmitted by ALTs. However, ALT also transmits human diseases, including severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome, which can be fatal. There is also substantial concern that ALTs will pick up native pathogens, such as the agents for Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, thereby becoming a new vector for those diseases. Although ALT has yet to be implicated in human disease within the U.S., health officials suspect it is only a matter of time.

ALT has recently been reported in southeastern Ohio and habitat suitability models predict that it will spread further westwards into the North Central region, where we currently have very little information on the ecology of ALT and the epidemiology of associated pathogens. Our goal with this study is to employ Ohio as a model for the North Central region, to inform IPM programs and evaluate infestation risk to livestock through characterizing ALT ecology, including phenology, density, and preferences for wildlife host and habitat type. In addition, we will describe the epidemiology of ALT-associated pathogens to assess risks to livestock health and occupational safety of producers, a workforce that has already been weakened by the current pandemic. We propose to conduct active surveillance at an established high risk site within Ohio through systematic, standardized sampling of the local environment and wildlife hosts from April to October 2022. ALTs will be tested for the pathogens responsible for theileriosis, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, using molecular tools to evaluate disease risk. Although this will be a short-term project, it will have large-scale benefits for animal health, occupational safety, and the economic security of the regional livestock industry. 

Objectives

1) Characterize the ecology of the invasive Asian longhorned tick (ALT) through active surveillance of the environment and wildlife hosts to evaluate infestation risk to livestock.

2) Describe the epidemiology of ALT-associated pathogens through testing for their presence in ticks from the environment and wildlife to assess disease risks to livestock and producers.