Growers are turning to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) tools in order to reduce the use of pesticides on their farm. Pheromone-based monitoring is one such technique used to manipulate the behavior of insect pests. It is a practice that could work well in the Northern Plains; however, according to Dr. Gadi V.P. Reddy of Montana State University, agricultural professionals currently have limited knowledge on the use of pheromone-based monitoring methods for important insect pests such as wheat stem sawfly, wheat midge, wireworms/click beetles, flea beetles, and others in Northern Plains.
Reddy and Dr. Anamika Sharma are using Western SARE Professional Development funds to create a curriculum and training that will enhance agriculture professionals’ knowledge and understanding on the role of pheromones in monitoring programs. The participants will subsequently have the ability to use and share the skills with farmers, expanding their sustainable management options.
With pheromone-based monitoring, the chemical substance produced and released into the environment by an insect affecting the behavior or physiology of others of its species is identified and then synthesized. A small amount of this synthesized chemical is put in a trap. The insect then believes that the opposite-sex partner is available, flies to the trap, and is captured. The insects are counted to determine the population and to estimate if the population will indeed cause damage. After monitoring, the insect pests can also be mass trapped and killed by using the pheromone traps.
Reddy says, “In the wheat, canola, and pulse growing areas of Montana, this environmentally-friendly monitoring tool has not been very popular in the past. Farmers and ag professionals don’t know about it or don’t know if it can be practical and useful. However, research in other regions shows that it helps a lot.”
On March 7-8, 2019, Reddy and team held the Pheromones as Tools for Monitoring Crop Insect Pests in the Northern Plains - Instructive Tools for Agricultural Professionals workshop to build understanding of pheromone-based monitoring techniques. In this workshop 10 speakers spoke eloquently about various pheromone based techniques used to monitor and manage major and minor insect pests of Northern Great Plains. This was a follow up to the successful 2016 workshop.
Dr. Fabian Menalled, Western SARE Regional Coordinator and Professor of Weed Ecology and Integrated Management at Montana State University, presented at the workshop. "I was pleased to be part of a well-attended workshop with participants from a wide range of backgrounds and professional interests, including Extension Specialists, researchers, farmers, and industry representatives. The practical presentations covered different basic and applied areas of pheromone-based monitoring."
A 27 page manual has been developed, with 50 copies being distributed to ag professionals. Field days, data collection, and more trainings will be conducted into 2020.
According to Reddy, the large amount of press received demonstrates that people are interested in learning about pheromone-based monitoring. This environmentally friendly technique requires the attention of regional growers encouraging a sustainable agriculture system.
“Farmers are very interested now, and the ag professionals who have gone through the training are educating farmers in the practice.”
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