Media contact: Dr. Fred Hain, professor of entomology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, North Carolina State University, 919-515-3804 or firstname.lastname@example.org
NC State University researcher seeks control for Christmas tree pest
From the tower at the top of Mount Mitchell in North Carolina awaits one of the most spectacular sights on the southern east coast. But amidst the beauty lies a depressing scene — masses of dead Fraser firs form giant pockmarks on the smooth, green landscape. Mount Mitchell's Fraser firs are the victim of the balsam woolly adelgid, a tiny yet destructive insect that feeds on various firs throughout the southern Appalachians.
The pest is not only destroying the beauty of the landscape, but has also done significant damage to the Christmas tree industry in North Carolina. Pesticide treatments for the balsam woolly adelgid cost growers more than $1.5 million per year and complicate alternative pest management strategies.
To assist Christmas tree growers in their battle against the balsam woolly adelgid, Dr. Fred Hain, an entomologist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University, is researching ways to lower the amount of pesticides needed to control the insect. With the help of a $59,316 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, Hain proposes to develop pest-resistant varieties of Fraser and other varieties of fir used for Christmas trees. The grant was awarded as part of the Southern Regional Integrated Pest Management Grants competition
Hain has proposed a two-step strategy. He plans to study ways the pest attacks the trees and how different fir varieties react to infestations. His goal is to test at least 12 different types of fir trees to determine which varieties tend to be more resistant to the adelgid.
Christmas tree growers currently must spray their fields for the adelgid twice every 5 to 10 years. Equipment and the volume of spray are extremely expensive, and only half of the Christmas tree growers in the southern Appalachians can afford to treat their fields.
Because the Fraser fir is one of the most popular Christmas trees, Hain will conduct tests specifically among its different species and test different Fraser fir seed sources.
Hain estimates the project will take approximately two years.
The Regional Integrated Pest Management Grants competition for the southern region is managed by the Southern Region Integrated Pest Management Center, which is located on the North Carolina State University campus. For a copy of North Carolina State University's grant proposal, or for other funded proposals, see http://www.sripmc.org/projects/ListRIPM.cfm.
- Rosemary Hallberg, 919-513-8182 or email@example.com -
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