News, Websites, Calendar Winter 2013

In the National News

Discoveries on Plant Defense Mechanisms Continue

University of Texas-Arlington and Michigan State University biologists published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences how the hormone jasmonate works at the molecular level to protect plants. In healthy plants, jasmonate plays a role in reproductive development and growth responses. But when plants are stressed from pests or drought, jasmonate signaling shifts to defense-related cellular processes, which is energy-consuming. The biologists showed that a jasmonate signaling repressor protein is able to mediate the jasmonate pathway until defenses for the plant become absolutely necessary. Further work is planned to identify the domain of the repressor protein that is responsible for immunity, which will lead to genetic resistance for use in sustainable agriculture.

Sea Anemones: A Valuable Resource from Coral Reefs

Scientists at the University of Leuven in Belgium have discovered toxins in the reef-dwelling sea anemone (Anthopleura elegantissima) that could possibly lead to a new generation of environmentally friendly insecticides, as reported in The FASEB Journal. They have extracted and characterized three main toxins from the anemone venom, and are trying to better understand how each of them work. The discovery of these toxins is similar to discovery of a new drug, and because of their unique mode of action, could lead not only to new insecticides but also treatments for human diseases.

Reduction of UV Light Causes Aphid Decline

An article published in Horticultural Science reveals that reducing UV exposure to aphid-infested plants reduces the pest population. In the study, scientists compared plants in two high tunnel greenhouses. In one, they covered crops with standard mesh netting, while in the other, crops were covered with a UV-absorbing netting. Both crops were artificially infested with aphids. The UV-covered crops had significantly fewer aphids than those with the standard netting. Although using UV absorbing nets is not the only solution to aphids, it can have many benefits, including pesticide reduction.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map May Be Outdated

Dr. Nir Krakauer, at The City College of New York, found that the new USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is already invalid. The Hardiness Zone Map delineates temperature boundaries for plant survival, based on 30-year averages of minimum temperatures. Krakauer found that winter temperatures in many areas have warmed by at least 2 degrees. As a result, over one-third of the country has shifted a half-zone as compared to the USDA map, and over one-fifth has shifted a full zone. Krakauer has found a method that can keep the map updated each year by adding new temperature data and recalculating.

Ultrasonic Frequency Devices Not Promising for Bed Bugs

Alternative means of controlling urban insect pests by using ultrasonic frequencies are available and marketed to the public, but are they effective? Authors of a paper in the Journal of Economic Entomology compared four commercially available electronic pest repellent devices to no treatment for bed bug control and found that ultrasonic devices have no impact on bed bug populations. They surmise that the devices don’t have the correct combination of frequencies to attract or deter the insects.

Bees Help Us Understand Benefits of Red Wine

A team of scientists from Arizona State University, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and Harvard Medical School found that when the bees were given resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine, they lived 33 to 38 percent longer, probably due to diet modification, as published in the journal, Aging. Of the food choices provided, the bees given resveratrol chose to consume only highly concentrated sugar, and when given the opportunity to gorge, the treated bees ate less then the untreated bees. The scientists conclude that resveratrol may induce caloric restriction, which in turn extends lifespan.


Useful Publications and Websites

Suburban Pest ID offers a pest gallery, access to a weekly blog, and the ability to send pest pictures for identification.

PestWorld has developed a website with kids' activities including videos and games, to help learn about insects.

Citizens Guide to Pest Control and Pesticide Safety is a publication developed by the EPA to help homeowners learn how to use pesticides, control pests in the home, how to choose a pest control company, and more.

Climate Change Webinar is an online presentation provided by Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources. It provides information on climate change of importance to agriculture in the Pacific Northwest.


Calendar of Events

January 28 - 30, Utah Nursery and Landscape Association Green Conference, Sandy, UT.

January 31 - February 2, Utah Hay and Forage Symposium, St. George, UT.

February 12 - 14, World Ag Expo, Tulare, CA,

February 14 - 15, Utah Pest Control and Lawncare Association Annual Convention, Sandy, UT.

February 20-22, 10th Annual Diversified Agriculture Conference, Ephraim, UT,

February 26-28, USU Extension Agriculture Workshops
  February 26: Organic Fruit and Vegetable Workshop, Salt Lake City
  February 27: Diversified Agriculture Conference–Urban Ag & the Utah Berry Growers’ Annual Meeting, Salt Lake City
  February 28: Utah Fruit Pests Workshop: Spotted Wing Drosophila and Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, location TBD

March 3 - 8, National Invasive Species Awareness Week.

April 6 - 11, Entomological Society of America Pacific Branch Meeting, Stateline, NV.