Breadfruit, used as a folk remedy in Pacific regions to control insects, is an effective mosquito repellent, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have found.
ARS scientists and their collaborators at the University of British Columbia in Okanagan, Canada, identified three breadfruit compounds—capric, undecanoic and lauric acids—that act as insect repellents. ARS is the chief intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In the study, chemist Charles Cantrell and his colleagues at the ARS Natural Products Utilization Research Unit (NPURU) in Oxford, Miss., and the University of British Columbia scientists collected smoke extracts by burning sun-dried clusters of flowers in the traditional method used by people in Pacific regions.
Capric, undecanoic and lauric acids, which are saturated fatty acids, were found to be significantly more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, theprimary insect repellent used against biting insects. For the first time, breadfruit was shown to actually work as a repellent, confirming it as a valid folk remedy, according to Cantrell.
These same compounds found in breadfruit and other folk remedies were shown to be highly active and the most repelling in a different study that examined a variety of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Cantrell teamed with Uli Bernier, a chemist in the Mosquito and Fly Research Unit at the ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology in Gainesville, Fla., and scientists at the University of Mississippi to evaluate the compounds. The test involved cloth treated with different concentrations of compounds and worn by volunteers. Again, these compounds were shown to provide effective protection against mosquitoes.
Funding for these studies was provided in part by the Deployed War-Fighter Protection Research Program. The program focuses on developing public health insecticides and improving technologies to protect U.S. military personnel from disease-transmitting insects such as mosquitoes that spread serious and deadly diseases including malaria, yellow fever and dengue fever.
Read more about this research in the November/December 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
SCIENTIST CONTACT: Charles Cantrell, ARS Natural Products Utilization Research Unit, Oxford, Miss.; phone (662) 819-5898;
released November 15, 2013
The Northeastern IPM Center has released its Request for Applications (RFA) for the 2014 Partnership Grants Program.
Up to $300,000 is available, with a maximum of $50,000 per award.
Projects should foster the development and adoption of integrated pest management (IPM) methods in three areas: IPM Working Groups, IPM Issues, and Regional IPM Communications. We especially encourage proposals on pollinators, synergizing IPM and organic efforts, expanding urban agriculture, and training the next generation of IPM researchers and practitioners.
Please see http://www.northeastipm.org/rfa/partnership for details and a link to the RFA forms and sample documents.
Applications must be submitted online by 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday, December 5, 2013.
Public and private institutions, organizations, businesses, commodity groups, and individuals may apply. Project Directors must reside in the Northeast or provide sufficient justification for seeking funds from outside their own region.
Co-PDs may be from outside the region.
Agricultural Research Service (ARS) studies have provided new information about how the pesticide endosulfan moves through the atmosphere, and how its molecular structure can change after it is applied to crops.
ARS chemist Cathleen Hapeman and her colleagues led a five-year study that looked at the pesticide’s journey out of Florida’s Homestead agricultural region. ARS is the chief intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and this research supports the USDA priority of ensuring food safety.
The team established air sampling sites in Homestead, Everglades National Park, and Biscayne National Park in Florida. The Everglades sampling site was six miles away from the Homestead sampling site, and the Biscayne sampling site was 12.5 miles away from the Homestead site.
The researchers found that samples from all three sites were dominated by gaseous concentrations of alpha-endosulfan, the pesticide’s more volatile form. Average atmospheric concentrations of alpha-endosulfan in the Homestead samples were 10 times greater than levels in the Everglades samples, and 100 times greater than levels in the Biscayne samples.
Results from other modeling and real-time observations indicate that with the right meteorological conditions, atmospheric levels of endosulfans can increase by drift as well as by volatilization. This information can be used to help determine the fate of the pesticide in the environment.
The scientists also made new findings about alpha-endosulfan and beta-endosulfan, a less volatile form of endosulfan. Both forms are applied to crop fields at a ratio of seven parts alpha-endosulfan to three parts beta-endosulfan. Results from previous studies had suggested that beta-endosulfan degraded fairly easily because it was usually found at such low levels in the environment.
However, Hapeman’s group found that beta-endosulfan could easily change into alpha-endosulfan in a process called isomerization, which explains why beta-endosulfan was detected much less frequently during atmospheric sampling.
Hapeman works at the ARS Environmental Management and Byproduct Utilization Laboratory in Beltsville, Md. The scientists published their findings in a 2013 issue of Atmospheric Environment.
Read more about this work in the September 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
SCIENTIFIC CONTACT: Cathleen Hapeman, ARS Environmental Management and Byproduct Utilization Laboratory, Beltsville, Md.; (301) 504-6451,
released Sept. 19, 2013
October 10, 2013
9:00 am - 4:00 pm CDT
Pollinators are essential to our environment. The ecological service they provide is necessary for the reproduction of more than 85 percent of the world's flowering plants and is fundamental to agriculture and natural ecosystems. More than two-thirds of the world's crop species are dependent on pollination, with an annual estimated value of $18 to $27 billion in the United States alone. Beyond agriculture, pollinators are keystone species in most terrestrial ecosystems, since their activities are ultimately responsible for the seeds and fruits that feed everything from songbirds to black bears. Conservation of pollinating insects is critically important to preserving both wider biodiversity, as well as agriculture.
In many places, however, this essential service is at risk. In 2006, the National Academy of Sciences released the report Status of Pollinators in North America, which called attention to the decline of pollinators. The report urged agencies and organizations to increase awareness and protect pollinator habitat. The Pollinator Conservation Planning Short Course was developed to address this need.
Introductory topics include the principles of pollinator biology, the economics of insect pollination, basic bee field identification, and evaluating pollinator habitat. Advanced modules will cover land management practices for pollinator protection, pollinator habitat restoration, incorporating pollinator conservation into federal conservation programs, selection of plants for pollinator enhancement sites, management of natural landscapes, and financial and technical resources to support these efforts. Throughout the short course these training modules are illustrated by case studies of pollinator conservation efforts across the country.
Registrants will receive the Xerces Society's Pollinator Conservation Toolkit which includes Xerces' latest book, Attracting Native Pollinators. Protecting North America's Bees and Butterflies, as well as habitat management guidelines and relevant USDA-NRCS and extension publications.
The Xerces Society is offering similar Pollinator Conservation Planning Short Courses across the country. Visit our online events page to view up-to-date short course information. If you would like to receive announcements about upcoming short courses, please email
. Be sure to include the following information: name, affiliation, mailing address, phone number, and the state(s) for which you would like to receive announcements.
**Continuing Education Credit Available**
Registration is $45
For more information: http://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07e7ygx5mqdb494695&llr=tnjebhdab
An experimental foam containing insect-killing fungi is being tested by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in the fight against ambrosia beetles, wood-boring pests that threaten the nation’s $322 million avocado crop.
ARS scientists in Peoria, Ill., and New Orleans, La., originally developed the foam as a way to pump fungal spores into the galleries of Formosan subterranean termites, which can nest deep inside trees. Now, together with university collaborators, the ARS researchers are testing the fungal foam’s effectiveness against ambrosia beetles in orchard-scale trials with avocado trees.
ARS is the chief intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In Miami-Dade County, Fla., avocado growers are contending with Xyleborus glabratus Eichhoff, the redbay ambrosia beetle. In California, particularly Los Angeles County, the fight is against a different ambrosia beetle species, the polyphagous shot hole borer, Euwallacea sp. The two states are the nation’s leading avocado producers.
Both beetles tunnel into the sapwood of avocado trees, inoculating them with pathogenic fungi in the process. Redbay ambrosia beetles spread Raffaelea lauricola, the fungal culprit behind laurel wilt disease, which is lethal to avocado and other trees. The shot hole borer is associated with Fusarium species that cause Fusarium die-back.
Spraying avocado groves with insecticides to kill the beetles before they inoculate trees with the fungi may not be an effective disease management approach in this particular case, notes Alejandro Rooney, who leads the Crop Bioprotection Research Unit at the ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria.
As an alternative, Rooney’s team will evaluate the effectiveness of treating avocado trees (and ornamental trees such as box elder, which serve as host reservoirs for the pest) with foam containing spores of Metarhizium, Isaria, Beauveria or other entomopathogenic (insect-killing) fungi. Vegetable oil-based formulations of the fungi will also be used.
In lab studies, the team devised tests called bioassays to genetically confirm the ability of the fungi to infect and kill the beetles, in addition to visual proof in the form of moldy growth on the pests’ bodies. In those tests, more than 95 percent of beetles exposed to the fungi died. Preliminary field trials under way in California also are providing promising results thus far.
Read more about this research in the August 2013 issue of Agricultural Research.
SCIENTIST CONTACT: Alejandro Rooney, ARS Crop Bioprotection Research Unit, National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, Ill., (309) 681-6395,