Research aids in the fight against invasive species

Invasive Species Potluck – Virginia Tech from VirginiaTech on Vimeo.

From soybean fields to hemlocks forests, experts from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Virginia Cooperative Extension are developing ways to deal with and control the hitchhikers, interlopers, and otherwise nasty pests known as invasive species.

“The top 10 pests that we deal with now are non-native, and we spend lots of money to control them,” said Eric Day, an entomologist with Virginia Cooperative Extension and manager of the Insect Identification Lab in the Department of Entomology.

Meanwhile Assistant Professor Jacob Barney in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science, collaboratively studies another invasive species — Johnsongrass — a weed that chokes out crops on farmland because of its fast-growing and extensive root structure.


Jacob Barney, assistant professor in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science, is just one of a team of faculty members studying invasive species and protecting Virginia producers from their destruction.

Barney will study what makes Johnsongrass a globally successful weed and use the research to establish a model for studying other weeds and how to predict invasiveness.

Another most-wanted intruder, the brown marmorated stink bug, is an annoyance to homeowners, but the real problem is the millions of dollars in damage it causes to crops across the Mid-Atlantic region.

“We have very few agricultural commodities that this bug does not attack,” said Associate Professor Tom Kuhar, an Extension entomologist.

Kuhar and his team of graduate students are studying aspects of the stink bug’s biology and ecology, its insecticide efficacy, and sustainable practices for managing it in vegetable crops.

Day recently returned from Berks County, Pennsylvania, where a pest that attacks grapes and other stone fruit crops like peaches has been identified: the spotted lanternfly.

“It’s a two-prong effort, identifying them and also making people aware of their presence,” Day said. “Virginia Cooperative Extension and our partner organizations play a large role in helping to get the word out about these invasive species so producers and the general public can control them.”

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