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Remote Sensing in Virginia Nursery Crops

image of nursery crop

Project Funded through the CALS Strategic Plan Advancement 2021 Integrated Internal Competitive Grants Program

Project Overview: 

The redheaded flea beetle (RHFB, Systena frontalis, Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae) has become a major pest in nursery crops in the Midwest and Northeastern regions of the US (Herrick and Cloyd 2020). Nursery growers in the Commonwealth of Virginia are spraying foliar insecticides up to three times a week to control the adults of this pest. Growers rely on the application of both pyrethroids and neonicotinoids, chemical classes with some regulatory and pollinator/bee restrictions, to manage this pest and reduce crop damage. Persistent use of these insecticides will likely promote the development of resistance in these beetles, as well as negatively influencing non-target organisms, such as beneficial insects. Reducing beneficial insects could increase secondary pest populations, such as soft bodied insects and mites, under nursery settings. Scouting for this beetle could be challenging due to its behavior, often resulting in underestimating RHFB presence. Based on field observations, the RHFB will damage leaf tissue from the lower portion of the canopy when populations of this insect are low. Early signs of plant damage by this beetle are usually located in places not easily accessed by scouters in the field. Remote sensing will be an innovative and alternative detection method approach for monitoring this beetle in nursery crops. Improved scouting techniques for this pest will reduce the number of foliar sprays by targeting populations early enough to avoid their establishment.

Project Team:

PI: Alejandro Del Pozo-Valdivia

Co-PIs:

CAIA Platform:

  • SmartFarm Innovation Network™: SmartTechnologies for Crop and the Green Industries

External Stakeholder(s) engaged in this project:

  • Bennett's Creek Nurseries, located in Suffolk, VA

“We expect to have a significant impact promoting the use of remote sensing to detect pests in nursery crops. This case study will pave the road to continue researching on additional precision agriculture technologies for the nursery industry. Improved scouting techniques might result in reducing the number of foliar sprays by targeting populations early enough to avoid their establishment.”