Jhalendra Rijal and Molly Stedfast win Friends of IPM awards

Please join us in congratulating Jhalendra Rijal and Molly Stedfast who recently won Friends of IPM awards!

The Friends of Southern IPM Graduate Student award program recognizes students with extraordinary potential to contribute to the development and implementation of research, extension, or implementation of integrated pest management in the Southern Region of the United States.

Jhalendra Rijal

Jhalendra’s doctoral research has involved the biology and ecology of grape root borer, Vitacea polistiformis, an important pest of grapevines in the eastern U.S. Specifically, he has addressed four primary objectives: 1) the determination of key risk factors underlying vineyard susceptibility to infestation by grape root borer; 2) the quantification of the spatial distribution of infestations within vineyards and development of a sampling protocol to assess infestations; and 3) the examination of neonate food-finding behavior in the soil and the host-plant cues that mediate this behavior.

In the true spirit of IPM, Jhalendra’s research has significantly advanced the monitoring and management capabilities for this ubiquitous grape pest in the eastern U.S. For the first time, we are able to recommend an efficient sampling protocol for grape root borer that should enhance the management decision process tremendously. Having revealed the association between soil factors and infestations, we can advise growers about the relative susceptibility of individual vineyard sites to attack by the pest, which should stimulate a more proactive approach to its monitoring and management. Jhalendra’s development of soil-based bioassays and demonstration of the chemically-mediated response of neonates to host root volatiles presents numerous opportunities to address further aspects of this key step in the infestation process, including an evaluation of the relative response to volatiles from native and commercially important Vitis species and the role of entomopathogenic nematodes in vineyards.

Molly StedfastMolly’s research has focused on developing an integrated bed bug prevention protocol that can be applied in low-income multi-unit housing facilities. Many of Virginia’s most vulnerable citizens live in subsidized multi-unit housing which are prone to bed bug infestations. Unfortunately, for most of the residents, the cost of professional bed bug control is beyond what they can afford.

To reduce both the cost of remediation, and apartment resident suffering, Molly has focused her efforts on developing a low-cost, minimally toxic prevention program that reduces the possibility of bed bugs entering the living facility, and prevents the spread to adjacent units if they are brought in. Her goal has been to develop a protocol that apartment managers and staff would be able to apply themselves with a small amount of training and a minimal cost. Molly has presented the results of her bed bug research and prevention program at regional and national scientific meetings and numerous pest management conferences. She presented over 30 Extension and industry presentations during her degree program, which is unprecedented for a student at the Master’s level.

Congratulations to Jhalendra and Molly!

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