PULLMAN, Wash. — Biocontrol research — a pest management strategy designed to keep agricultural pests in check with their natural enemies — has just received a boost from one of the region’s largest providers of credit to agriculture.
Washington State University’s entomology department has received a $50,000 gift from Northwest Farm Credit Services of Spokane to help build a controlled environment room at the Pacific Northwest Biocontrol Insectary and Quarantine facility on the east edge of campus.
“At Northwest Farm Credit Services, we understand the importance of research to the future of agriculture. By supporting general agricultural research at this level, Farm Credit is readily demonstrating our commitment to agriculture,” explained Jay Penick, president and chief executive officer of Northwest Farm Credit Services.
“We feel very fortunate to have received support from Farm Credit Services,” said John Brown, chair of WSU’s entomology department. “This gift brings us one step closer to construction.”
Brown hopes to raise $30,000 more from commodity groups.
Scientists will be able to manipulate temperatures and light in the room to study insect behavior and evaluate the potential of pest enemies imported from other parts of the nation and world.
“In the same species of parasitic wasps,” Brown said, “you may select some that have a more active foraging behavior than other groups within that species.”
Parasitic wasps brought in from North Africa and the Middle East help keep the Russian wheat aphid in check. This WSU and USDA biocontrol effort saves Washington wheat growers up to $4 million a year in insecticide applications, Brown said.
The new controlled environment room will be designed so researchers will be able to roll in benches from the Insectary. Adult parasitoids will be vacuumed off the plants, packaged and shipped to growers.
The room will support the work of a new biocontrol specialist expected to join the entomology department on July 1. The position is one of 40 new faculty and technical positions funded by the state legislature in 1999 as part of the university’s Safe Food Initiative.
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