My research is centered on the biology and ecology of three major insect pests of turfgrass in New Jersey and the Northeast (white grubs, annual bluegrass weevil [ABW], black cutworm) and the development of biological control and integrated pest management technology for these pests. Preventive insecticide applications have become the standard for these pests but are expensive, of limited compatibility with IPM, and do not work well against some white grub species and often require several applications per year for ABW. ABW has also developed widespread broad insecticide resistance. There is a dire need for the development of alternative control agents and control strategies. Current research activities include the following:
- Sustainable control options for ABW: We are developing non-destructive monitoring/ prediction tools for ABW based on semiochemicals. We are studying the effect of environmental and cultural parameters on the efficiency of sampling methods for ABW which will help optimize the predictive power of these methods. We are studying aspects of its biology and ecology relevant for the development of better management tactics. We are investigating tolerance/resistance to annual bluegrass weevil feeding among different bentgrass species/cultivars. We are studying the scope and mechanisms of insecticide resistance to help with the development of better resistance management recommendations. We are developing biological and biorational control options for controlling ABW adults and larvae.
- Development of sustainable control options for black cutworm: We have shown that several nematode products can provide adequate field control and may be an option for areas where chemical insecticide use is restricted. We are further testing species combinations, sequential applications, and modifications of irrigation patterns to optimize nematode efficacy.
- Development of Steinernema scarabaei as a curative and long-term white grubs control agent: After isolating a new species of entomopathogenic nematode, S. scarabaei, from turfgrass areas in New Jersey, we demonstrated that it is superior as a white grub control agent to presently available nematode species for curative and especially for long-term suppression of white grubs. We continue to explore the biology and ecology of this species.
- Testing of new insecticidal compounds: We are collaborating with the chemical industry to test new and safer insecticides for the control of white grubs, ABW, and black cutworm.
Research Currently Supported by the Center for Turfgrass Science
Development of IPM for major insect pest with emphasis on ABW including (a) development of a microsclerotial formulation of the entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium brunneum and comparison with condial formulations for control of ABW larvae, (b) development of the petroleum-drive spray oil Civitas for control of ABW adults, (c) optimizing the use and predictive power of soap flushing, vacuuming, and clippings examination for ABW adult monitoring, and (d) isolation, characterization, and development native persistent entomopathogenic nematodes for long-term insect pest suppression.