Start Date: Oct 01, 2005
End Date: Sep 30, 2010
The BIRU will discover and evaluate beneficial insects and pathogens for biological control of the most serious pests and weeds of agriculture in the southwestern U.S., with applications of this research at the national and international level. Changes in cotton production in this region due to the potential eradication of the boll weevil and adoption of transgenic Bt cotton varieties has reduced use of broad spectrum insecticides to control key pests. This pest management strategy has resulted in the emergence of formerly secondary insects such plant bugs as serious pests. New management strategies must be developed to reduce the pesticide use in cotton. The biology and ecology of these emergent pests will be investigated, with the goal of learning where they originate before entering crops, identifying their natural enemies, devising methods to manipulate or otherwise conserve them, and to import new natural enemies for classical biological control. Further, the role of nocturnal spiders will be investigated to quantify the important role they play as predators of Lepidoptera eggs (beet armyworm & bollworm) and to support their conservation in the agroecoystem. The effects of pesticides on key natural enemies, including those of the green cotton mirid and glassy-winged sharpshooter, will be measured, and least toxic insecticides will be identified. This will allow producers to reduce their pest problems while protecting natural enemies. The insect pathology program will concentrate on technology transfer of a pathogen treated hive strip for control of varroa mite with honey bees. Water resources are critical to agriculturists, land managers, and urban users in the arid southwestern U.S. A biological control program to manage giant reed, an exotic water-using weed in the Rio Grande Basin, will be initiated.