KSU wheat research leads to USDA grant

by World Grain Staff
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MANHATTAN, KANSAS, U.S. — Kansas State University (KSU) joins four other land-grant universities in sharing a three year, $1.9 million grant to study pest control methods, treatments and best management practices in wheat.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Avoidance and Mitigation Program (RAMP) awarded the grant, which provides resources that allow scientists from the five institutions to complete their work, the Kansas Wheat Commission announced on Dec. 22.

Work conducted by the KSU entomology team, and funded by the Kansas Wheat Commission, led to the USDA RAMP grant. Jeff Whitworth, extension entomologist at KSU, has shown that the long-held notion that farmers can avoid Hessian fly infestations by planting after the “fly-free date” may not be completely accurate.

Two years ago, Hessian flies were found in locations throughout Kansas well after the fly-free date, prompting Whitworth and his colleagues to discover best management practices for farmers, including regional assessment of the costs and benefits of insecticide-treated wheat seed.

Whitworth said currently throughout Kansas there are several locations where different rates and types of insecticide treated seed are being used and where Hessian fly and aphids are being monitored.

Researchers at Texas A&M, Oklahoma State University, Colorado State University and the University of Nebraska are working on other pest problems, all of which affect hard winter wheat producers.

As part of the RAMP grant funding, which began in September, researchers at each university will work together to develop an Internet-based tool supporting unified Insect Pest Management, which will demonstrate the utility and economic benefits of the program to wheat producers.

The “iWheat” program will be unveiled in late 2012, and will monitor wheat fields for key wheat pests, plus evaluate the effectiveness and economic benefits of seed treatments for pests. The project is anticipated to be completed in December 2014.

The KSU team will develop a website (www.iwheat.org) that can summarize, by geographic region, the occurrence, categorical abundance, and identity of pest species and biotypes. This information-driven system will give crop professionals a tool to track changes at the field-level.

Whitworth said aside from serving as a reservoir for data generated, the goal is to make this data dynamic and relevant to end-users.

“We want to provide timely, geographically referenced, graphical and textual information to recommend management procedures during the growing season,” Whitworth said. “Target pests include Hessian fly, aphids, wheat rusts and weeds.”

Users of iWheat will be required to create a personalized account, to which they can log-in and see management recommendations based on status of pests, diseases and wheat biometric data and temperature.

“Our goal is to provide wheat growers with information to save them money in the growing season and to help them produce more bushels of wheat,” Whitworth said. “Through this technology we will be able to provide timely information for Kansas wheat producers.”
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