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WVU joins search for organic response to stinkbugs

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West Virginia University has joined a multistate effort to develop new ways for organic farmers to deal with stinkbugs.

"The brown marmorated stinkbug is an invasive insect causing severe economic loss in Mid-Atlantic states, with damage increasing in southern states," Yong-Lak Park, an associate professor of entomology in WVU's Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, said in a news release. "It is an especially devastating pest for organic farmers."

Current organic management tactics have not mitigated damage because the bug is highly mobile, feeds on a diverse number of crops and occupies a large geographic area. Researchers believe whole-farm management is required for effective control on organic farms.

"This will aid growers in the selection and planning of trap crops, enhancing natural enemies and cultural control, all of which will be researched in this project," Park said. "WVU's research team will search for new natural enemies and investigate movement patterns of stink bugs on the farm that will be integrated into development and execution of organic stink bug management."

The researchers, led by colleagues at Rutgers University in New Jersey, will partner with eOrganic to aid in the dissemination of research findings, which will be supplemented with annual on-farm demonstrations and social media efforts. The project has the support or involvement of 25 researchers, three organic organizations and 12 organic farmers. Seven farmer-stakeholders have been fully engaged in the development of this proposal and will continue to play an integral role in research and outreach activities.

Park is joined by James Kotcon, associate professor of plant pathology in the Davis College's Division of Plant and Soil Sciences and leader of WVU's Organic Research Project.

The $2,672,327 grant for the stink bug project was part of a total of $19 million awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture to research and extension programs to help organic producers and processors grow and market high quality organic agricultural products. WVU will receive nearly $300,000 of the $2.6 million.

"America's organic farmers rely on quality science to keep their operations profitable and successful," said Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. "These grants will give our organic farmers the skills and tools they need to be competitive and continue producing abundant and high-quality crops."

In addition to WVU and Rutgers, the University of Kentucky, Michigan State University, the University of Maryland, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, Virginia Tech, the University of Tennessee, North Carolina State University, Ohio State University and the Rodale Institute are participating in the research and extension project.