Project Details


The brown marmorated stinkbug (BMSB, Halyomorpha halys), which has become a devastating pest to many northeastern farmers, was first detected in the US in 1996 and is currently still expanding across the continent. As with any biological invasion, the best management practices are often ones that detect the invader early and control it before it can establish within a novel landscape. If such practices had been available for BMSB when it was first detected in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1996, perhaps spreading populations in the United States could have been detected and controlled sooner. Unfortunately that was not the case, and the species has spread to 40 US states as well as Canada and several European countries. The BMSB is transported into novel habitats by hitchhiking on agricultural and horticultural products, or within luggage or household items associated with people's movements. The BMSB causes significant damage both to agricultural crops and ornamental plants, and its economic impact has been devastating. Furthermore, insecticide applications aimed at BMSB control have upset years of carefully optimized integrated pest management strategies and reduced populations of natural insect predators and parasitoids of other important agricultural pests. Because the best way to control an invasive pest is not let it become established, early detection is key.Current efforts aimed at detecting the presence of BMSB require capturing individuals via black light or pheromone traps, followed by visual taxonomic identification. However, surveillance through direct sampling of specimens often does not detect the presence of the target species until it is relatively abundant. Additionally, black light traps are used for large-scale landscape monitoring, which will not inform presence and spread of BMSB at the local scale (e.g., among individual farms). An emerging surveillance tool that has proven highly useful in detecting the presence of aquatic invasive species is environmental DNA (eDNA). As a matter of course, DNA molecules are released into the environment from various biological byproducts such as shed cells, saliva, excreta, and rotting bodies. This abundant source of DNA allows for indirect sampling that can identify the presence of one or more target species. Environmental DNA has a proven track record of detecting critical invasive species in aquatic ecosystems, even when they are at abundances far below what direct monitoring can detect. For these reasons, eDNA has become a standard approach to surveying for the presence of aquatic invasive species, where high sensitivity, early detection and pre-emptive control are key.We will adapt known eDNA techniques to monitor the spread of agricultural pest insects, where there is evident need to have highly sensitive early detection systems in place to optimize integrated pest management programs. We will utilize the BMSB as a test case whereby we can prove the utility of the concept for agricultural pests, and test the ability of eDNA to detect presence of BMSB at lower abundances than the current direct monitoring can achieve (pheromone and light traps). From prior research, we developed a high-sensitivity species-specific real-time PCR (rtPCR) assay for identifying trace amounts of often highly degraded BMSB DNA. In the next three years we will field-test this assay for detecting BMSB eDNA on active farms using a suite of promising field sampling protocols (see below). As end products, we will evaluate the ability of eDNA to detect BMSB, evaluate its ability to detect BMSB presence when traditional direct methods do not, and deliver a practical protocol for eDNA BMSB detection that can inform on-farm pest control decisions.Small sustainable produce farms sell their products directly to consumers, making any feeding damage by BMSB likely to impose a high cost in terms of lost profit. Our two study farms provide local produce to a largely urban population, and thus their ability to remain financially and environmentally sound is tightly tied to their ability to control pest damage using as little pesticide as possible. Therefore, our results have the potential to provide to these and similar small-scale produce farms a means of reducing incurred costs due to pest control and crop losses.
Effective start/end date4/11/163/31/19


  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA))


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