Pests and Insects

Pests and insects are among the greatest natural enemies faced by farmers.

Reducing damage from insect pests requires integrated approaches and collaborative research specific to each major production region. Cooperation between USDA/Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and land-grant universities is crucial in this fight.

Russian wheat ahphid, Hessian fly and wheat stem sawfly are three insects that are becoming increasingly virulent and must be addressed.

Since 1986, Russian wheat aphid has caused more than $1.5 billion in losses to the wheat industry. Seventy percent of fields in southern Kansas, Oklahoma and northern Texas are infested with Hessian fly each year. In Montana, annual losses to wheat stem sawfly are estimated at $100 million.

Genetic resistance remains the most environmentally responsible and effective strategy to control these insect pests and others over the long term.

However, new genetic sources of resistance and more rapid, effective screening methods are needed to achieve durable resistance. Also needed is a greater understanding of insect biotypes, their evolution and the mechanistic basis of insect virulence and host resistance.