Peanut research at Fort Valley State University continues to aid Georgia farmers who face challenges controlling a pest that is damaging peanut crops.
The peanut, the official state crop, is under threat by an insect called the burrower bug, Pangaeus bilineatus. With this pest causing significant yield loss, Georgia farmers expressed interest in a solution.
As a result, Dr. George Mbata, chair of FVSU’s Department of Biology, initially received an $11,000 grant from the Georgia Peanut Commission to begin his four-year research.
This led to the biology professor expanding his pest management research using a combination of biological and chemical insecticides. He later received a $200,000 Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) grant (2016-69008-25089) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). For this project, he collaborated with Dr. David Shapiro-Ilan, an entomologist at the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Southeastern Fruit and Tree Nut Research Laboratory in Byron, Georgia, and Dr. Mark Abney, a University of Georgia Extension entomologist.
“The burrower bug attacks the peanuts while they are still underground,” Mbata explained. “Current control methods for this pest, which are based on the use of chemical insecticides, have not been very successful.”
During their research, the entomologists investigated the efficacy of an entomopathogenic nematode, Heterorhabditis bacteriophora Poinar (Oswego strain), and a fungus, Beauveria bassiana (Balsamo) Vuillemin (GHA strain). They applied the nematode and fungus alone and in combination with chlorpyrifos, which is a common insecticide used to control soil-borne insect pests on a variety of food and feed crops.
The research experts discovered that H. bacteriophora was more effective in significantly reducing populations of the burrower bug when used in combination with chlorpyrifos.
“When applied as single treatments, the two entomopathogens were not pathogenic. They did not cause mortality in P. bilineatus adults that was different from the non-treated control,” Mbata said. “However, 3 and 7 d post treatment, the combination of the H. bacteriophora and chlorpyrifos caused higher mortality than the nematode, fungus or insecticide alone, or the combination of chlorpyrifos and B. bassiana.”
Mbata added that this is the first report of synergy between a nematode that was not pathogenic when applied alone and with a chemical insecticide. “Based on the observation of synergy, the combination of H. bacteriophora and chlorpyrifos should be investigated further for potential adoption in the management of P. bilineatus on peanut farms,” Mbata said.
The FVSU researcher said the goal is to keep pest populations at a level that does not cause injury or crop loss, to provide farmers with tools they can use to mitigate infestation and to have a sizable yield. He plans to investigate methods for raising the seasonal burrower bug so that he can work year-round on this project.
For more information about pest management in peanuts, contact Mbata at (478) 825-6550 or firstname.lastname@example.org.