When she joined the University of Florida as an eminent scholar in entomology and nematology two years ago, Bryony Bonning brought an insect and nematode research center with her. That center works with researchers and industry to help manage insects and nematodes that harm crops and humans.
Bonning started the Center for Arthropod Management Technologies while conducting entomology research at Iowa State University. There, she joined forces with Reddy Palli, professor and entomology department chair with the University of Kentucky.
Now, five years after the initial funding, the National Science Foundation has renewed the center’s grant funding at $150,000 per year for each of the next five years. CAMTech, as the center is known, is a collaboration among researchers at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the University of Kentucky and private partners.
In addition to NSF funding that supports center operations, industry partners provide financial support through center memberships for research that’s pertinent to the private sector, said Bonning, a professor of entomology and nematology at UF/IFAS.
“CAMTech is the only center of its kind that deals with management of insect and nematode pests,” Bonning said. “Importantly, the center bridges the gap between research conducted at federal and academic institutions and the needs of industry.”
“In order to provide adequate food for the increasing global population and to protect human health, new and more effective methods for pest management and to prevent insect-transmitted diseases to plants and humans are essential,” Bonning said.
Global travel and trade have inadvertently resulted in increased movement of pests and diseases across continents, resulting in major problems associated with invasive pests, insects in particular, she said.
“Research within the center will help deliver improved and safer insect and nematode management technologies toward overcoming these challenges,” Bonning said.
Scientists at the center focus on areas with potential for significant commercial benefits, including:
- New management approaches to address resistance to current insecticides and control strategies.
- Analysis of genome sequences including for identification of particularly damaging nematode strains in soybean fields.
- Development of new methods and research tools such as a new website with information about insecticidal toxins identified from bacteria.
Current center research addresses pests of global importance as well as those that impact Florida and other regions of the United States. These pests include the fall armyworm — a voracious pest of field, vegetable and fruit crops, stink bugs that feed on a similarly wide range of plants, the corn rootworm known as the “billion dollar pest,” and mosquitoes that transmit diseases including dengue and West Nile viruses, which are of particular concern in Florida, Bonning said.
Five UF/IFAS entomology department faculty members are conducting research projects through the center:
- A team from the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, led by Associate Professor Chelsea Smartt, is working on mosquito resistance to repellents that are used to deter mosquitoes from entering houses or patios. This work will ultimately help with management of disease transmission by mosquitoes.
- Assistant Professor Peter DiGennaro is working on a method to quickly identify types of nematodes that feed on the roots of crops. This will provide growers with valuable information to inform crop rotation and pest management decisions.
- Professor Jeffrey Bloomquist is developing a technique to assess how effectively an insecticide will penetrate the hard exterior of an insect so that companies can improve the penetration of their chemical sprays.
- Professor and department chair Blair Siegfried is leading an effort to develop a tool to help with research on the biology of stink bugs. This tool could also potentially be used to manage these pests.
- Bonning is working with an international team to develop an online resource that will provide information about insecticidal toxins, identified from bacterial species. This web site will be the go-to site for researchers, industry and federal regulatory agencies for information on such toxins that have proven value in both traditional and organic agriculture.
More information on the Center for Arthropod Management Technologies can be found on the center’s website, www.iucrc-camtech.org.