As a graduate student writing about entomology and agriculture, it’s inevitable that my own research will come up. So I would like to share a little bit about what I do, especially as I begin my first field season.
My research interests are focused on sustainable pest management of agricultural systems, specifically biological control of insect pests. Currently I’m working on management of onion thrips in onion production systems of New York. Onions are one of the most valuable vegetable crops in the state, grossing $45 million in 2009. Most of the crop is grown for fresh market or storage, indicating a low tolerance for insect damage that reduce bulb size, quality, or both.
Onion thrips (Thrips tabaci) are a major pest in New York onion production. They hide in leaf folds and feed on green leaves, reducing photosynthetic capacity of the plant and overall yield. Furthermore, onion thrips can can transmit Iris yellow spot vitus (IYSV) a Tospovirus which can further damage plants and cause complete yield loss.
Current management practices rely heavily on foliar broad spectrum insecticide sprays with multiple sprays per season to control onion thrips. However, efficiency may not be adequate as thrips often hide between leaves, protecting themselves from spray droplets. Furthermore, the possibility of insecticide resistance development is high due to the nature of thrips reproduction. Newer selective insecticides have shown to be effective in thrips management and fortunately may be compatible with biological control agents such as predators and parasitoids.
I’m interested in natural enemies that may potentially impact thrips populations. This season, I am lucky to have multiple research sites with a mix of growers to complete my research. I’m so excited to be doing field work out in the sunshine!